Queen Tara

A play in three acts by Darrell Figgis. Opened at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, February 25, 1913.  Produced by Henry Herbert.

Cast of characters

Julian, King of Illyvicum Henry Herbert
Serge, his brother-in-law Horace Braham
Peter, his brother-in-law H. Pardoe Woodman
Antony, the King's Minister John Cairns
Stephen, Captain of the King's Guard Charles Warburton
Lyof, Lieutenant of the King's Guard Basil Rathbone
Hagen, Officer in Army Edmund Sulley
Brabo, Officer in Army Duncan Yarrow
Mark, Officer in Army Basil Osborne
Tara, the Queen Gladys Vanderzee
Cathna, her maid Brunhild Muller
Soldiers H.S. Bickmore, Frank Sulmund
Servant Francis W. Denman
Messenger Frank Freeman
Page Muriel Dawn
ACT I Scene 1 Council room in palace
  Scene 2 Brabo's room in palace
ACT II Scene 1 Tara's room, with balcony beyond
  Scene 2 Throne room in palace
  Scene 3 Tara's room
ACT III Scene 1 Throne room in palace
  Scene 2 The ante-chamber to the Royal Apartments

The following review is from the Irish Times, February 26, 1913:

"Queen Tara," a play by Mr. Darrell Figgis, the success of whose literary work entitles him to be referred as a well-known author, received its first production last night. Mr. Figgis is a native of Dublin, and it was appropriate that this event should take place here. The F.R. Benson Company have had the play in hands for some time, and their visit to Dublin afforded a fitting opportunity for the production. The audience last night was not large, but it appeared to be impressed by the new work, and with hearty applause brought the author to the stage to acknowledge the warm reception accorded the play. Mr. Figgis, after a few words of thanks to the audience, expressed his gratitude to Mr. Henry Herbert for the care which he had taken in producing the work.

"Queen Tara," which was written in 1910, is a tragedy in verse. The name is not to be taken as indicating an Irish subject. Mr. Figgis has stated in an interview that "it belongs to no country and to no time. It is a purely imaginative work, in which I had to create my own media." Following the suggestion of some of the names used for the characters, Mr. Herbert has given it a Slavonic setting.

The play is finely constructed, and the elements of dramatic conflict yield readily to an analysis on the lines of Mr. Masefield's formula of tragedy--treachery and obsession. The treachery nominally lies with the conspirator, Brabo, but the real treachery is that of the Queen in her craving for complete ascendancy. Julian's obsession is two-fold, consisting in implicit confidence in his personal influence, and in blind devotion to his Queen, Tara. The latter is beautiful, scheming, ambitious, a "soft, subtle woman, eaten of guile, playing her music thro' him."

She is the only female character in the piece, and her portrait is less clearly defined than those of the men. At all events, one did not see her very clearly through Miss Vanderzee. What certainly appears, however, is that her advent to the Court as the consort of the beloved and respected King, Julian, is resented by courtiers and populace both, the more so as the depth of Julian's passion for her is seen. The murmurings are increased when her two brothers are invested with honours and set as Royal princes above the nobles of the kingdom. Of the latter, a few soon become openly disaffected. Their leader is the crafty Brabo, who works easily on the more impressionable of the courtiers. The latter cannot, however, entirely forget their attachment to Julian, and some of the most effective passages in the piece are those in which these men are shown alternately swayed by the respective influences of Brabo's subtle craft and the King's frank trust. Brabo has a powerful lever in the resentment felt against the Queen's brothers, Serge and Peter, the former's haughty insolence being especially serviceable in alienating from loyalty the man most needed by the conspirators--the noble, but hot-blooded, Stephen, Captain of the King's Guard.

The Queen over-estimates her influence with Julian, and goes too far when she essays to dismiss the wise and trusted adviser of the King, his Minister, Antony. At this point, the King awakes from his two-fold obsession, but treachery has gone too far, and the tragedy is soon precipitated. The final scene presents a stirring climax. The conspirators achieve their purpose of assassinating the Queen. Events then, however, pass beyond their control, and , in a night of horrors, the King, too, is slain. This crime recoils on their heads. Stephen, who had withdrawn from the plot, though too late, suffers only the punishment of remorse. Brabo and Mark are taken as traitors. In the turmoil of the night, Serge has met his end--it is not clear at whose hand, but he had made enemies enough. The older brother, Peter, who by himself had made a good impression, and been reviled only in association with Serge, is proclaimed King.

Yet do not hail him; we've a sadder business
For our attention. Bear this poor clay up,
And lay him by the Queen he once so loved.
The dawn is punctual to our obsequies;
See where it paints the silver casements gold,
Dashing the clouds with rubies! Oh, my King,
No dawn shall ever win my love again.

Mr. Figgis's verse is vigorous, terse, and dignified, and is skilfully moulded to the varying situations. For this cause, the play, which is published, is literature of fine quality. One would say, too, that it plays well, and in the hands of a first-rate company would absorb the attention of the audience at an earlier stage than last night. All the principal male characters are strongly defined, and the clash of differing personalities is subtly pictured. Probably the anxieties of production kept Mr. Herbert from making all that might be of the character of Julian. Mr. Warburton's Stephen was easily the strongest and most animated portrait. It had a fine air of nobility and honesty, allied with an impressionableness that lent itself to the workings of Brabo's craft. Mr. Yarrow's Brabo was carefully studied, and played an important share in advancing the interest of the plot. Mr. Rathbone portrayed a properly impulsive Lyof. Mr. Horace Braham made himself sufficiently dislikeable as Serge, and Mr. Cairns was a venerable and wise-looking Minister. The others had less to do. The weakest passages were those between the King and Queen, in which occur many beautiful lines, but were not quite successfully rendered. Mr. Herbert had a difficult task to perform, no doubt, in conveying the King's distraction at the death of the Queen, but his paroxysms were rather extraordinarily wild. He deserves credit, however, for the "producing" as a whole. The throne-room scene had a poverty-stricken air, but in the other scenes simplification, on the lines of some recent productions at the Abbey Theatre, was carried out to good purpose, much use being made of plain drapings, which make a vastly better setting for plays where the inherent interest of the plot and the verse is sufficient in itself, than do tawdry canvas, clothes, and wing-pieces.

Mr. Figgis's play strikes one as being well worthy of production on more ambitious lines, and with more adequate resources of personnel, and so on, now that its dramatic force is proved.




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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2011