Extract from ‘The Scotsman’ Wednesday 13 October 1943
New Edinburgh Venture
Three one-act plays of Russian life were given last night in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Forrest Road, Edinburgh to mark the opening of the Edinburgh People’s Theatre. The plays were produced by Mr. Andrew P. Wilson in aid of the new hospital in Stalingrad, where it is proposed to endow a bed in the projected “Edinburgh Ward”. With the programme was combined a bulletin setting forth the aims of the People’s Theatre which are to further the art of drama in accordance with the principle that true art can move the people to work for the betterment of society; to train and encourage actors, producers and playwrights accordingly; and to devise, import and experiment with new forms of dramatic art. For these ideals, the bulletin claims, the commercial theatre does not stand, its object being the cultivation of dividends rather than the drama. Offers of help of all kinds are invited.
Russia and the Russians were presented in three widely different aspects last night. Tchekov’s light- hearted playlet, ‘The Proposal’ written over fifty years ago and translated by Constance Garnett into Scots of the kailyard variety, certainly struck a more homely note than is usually associated with the Russian stage. J.H Macdonald, Inga Peace, Wm. H Campbell and Catherine Burt made the most of the comedy. What would probably strike most playgoers as more authentically Russian was the Yiddish play, “The Eternal Song” by Marc Arnstein, translated by Etta Block. Here, in a St Petersburg garret before the last war, were the melancholy dreamers with their poetic yearnings, their sense of futility alternating with hope, in the grip of fates that were too much for them. Muriel E. Crane and Lauchie McLean gave sensitive performances as the young lovers. Complete contrast in treatment and sentiment was provided by “My Daughter Tanya” a play about modern Russia based by Andrew P Wilson on a true story written by Tanya’s mother for Soviet War News. Margaret Candlish played the name part, the company managing to convey to the full that feeling of new life that was overrunning the country when the tragedy of war struck it afresh.