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The Guardian (29/Jan/1929) - Theatres, Variety and Kinema: Number Seventeen

(c) The Guardian (29/Jan/1929)

Theatres, Variety and Kinema


After the austerities of "The Silver Cord" and "Juno and the Paycock" we may rollick with the Rusholme actors in the boisterous criminality of Mr. Farjeon's play. "Number Seventeen" was first seen in Manchester a long time ago with Mr. Nicholas Hannen and Mr. Leon M. Lion in the principal parts. Time has not treated the piece well, and the rough and ready acting inseparable from a first night in a repertory revival exaggerates crudities and gives us bustle instead of slickness, and fumbling where the touch should haw certainty. The plot is somewhat involved, although it starts with the simplest ingredients of a fog, an empty house, and the minimum of one dead body. After that the plot and fog thicken together until we have crooks on the cross, the double-cross, the criss-cross, and double dummy gags, pistols, sudden shots, shocks, faces at the window, appearances, disappearances, the man who was and the man who is, the man who came back, the man who went, and the man who was the right man after all. All the factors that theatricalism can provide to mystify, thrill, and scare are there, and it is a matter for the individual to accept or reject. The players certainly attack the subject with zest, particularly Mr. Anson as Ben of the Mercantile Marine, who is there where he is wanted, though much against his will, and Mr. Marle, who is one of those strong, silent men of the theatre who get out of bonds and tight corners with ease, comfort, and the device of the author. The rest have revolvers of different colours and sizes, which are produced as circumstances demand, but all the revolvers and the crooks double-crossing, and so getting in each other's way, does not prevent the Suffolk diamonds getting into the hands of Barton, the terrible detective.

The production shows some improvement in technical equipment on the stage, and the mounting and accessories were well done. The opening scene in the fog was excellently presented, and brought to mind the realism of the melodramas that were incomplete without real hansom cabs and real fire engines. The Rusholme fog nearly makes us cough, and it deserved the applause as the curtain rose on the familiar sight.

F. E. D.