I went to "The River Line" matinee on Saturday. It was sold out, with hopeful people queuing for returns. Lovely little theatre, down some steps in Jermyn Street. A dive, in all senses of the word. It was like being in Ronnie Scott's without all the hype and oversold commercialism.
I started chatting during the interval to a lady in the row behind, and it turned out she was the mother of one of the leading actors!
The play was good, and the foreword in the programme was written by Roger Morgan, the author's son. Since CM died in 1958, this person must be very old now. I showed my new friend my hard-back copy, which is dedicated to Roger Morgan, and she was very impressed and said she and her husband would look for a copy on Amazon. They didn't know the story, surprisingly, and felt it would repay reading, to which I agreed.
This evening I finished "Sparkenbrooke" and was disappointed. It went on for far too long at 550 pages, and was so wordy that I could not imagine many people actually reading the whole thing seriously even in 1936, when it was published.
Interestingly, two elderly men coming out of the theatre behind me were complaining that the play was "Very wordy". Written in 1949, about wartime Resistance in France, the book was faithfully adapted by the author for the stage, and many sentences and passages of dialogue appeared intact in the play. Only the descriptions were missed out. There were some meaty moral passages which I suppose is what struck the complainers.
"Character and Destiny" was a phrase which struck me, but when I looked in the novel on the train home, I couldn't find it. It was a phrase which appeared in "Sparkenbrooke" though, so clearly a theme close to the author's heart.
Roger Morgan wrote in his foreword to the programme that "His novels have themes .... if one cannot accept that men may have spiritual lives beyond those of their daily concerns, one will not gladly enter the world with which Morgan is concerned."
Having said that, wordy and spiritual or not, the play created mounting dramatic atmosphere, and in the last scene, the audience were spell-bound, not a murmur, rustle or cough was heard.
An afternoon well spent.