This play was a shocker when it first came out in 1912, and we can see the reasons why even today, with its calm look at the difference in the way in which society treats fornicators: for men it's winked at, for women it's the worst sin that can be committed -- unless sanctified after the fact by the benison of holy wedlock, in which case the only consequence may be a baby born seven months after the wedding -- unremarkable and unremarked.
But society has changed so much in the 95 years since this play came out, that the question remains as to how much power these waxworks can hold for us? The 1928 silent version, directed by Elvey still works, and the play still works here, almost entirely due to the role of Jefcote, played with great humor and probity by Donald Pleasance. Even through the accents, you can see a real person here, even though the other roles are little more than statements of position: the calm father who wants justice done, the mother of the wronged girl who utters constant malapropisms, the boy's fiancée who drops him out of Christian charity and her father who urges him to stand up to his father until his interests are attacked..... only the Donald Pleasance character shows grit, spunk and self-awareness.... and the piece is directed to make him the focus.
The play, therefore, works as a character study. But for how much longer?
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