The Daily Telegraph
CHINESE ON THE STAGE. UNREASONABLE OBJECTIONS.
EMINENT ACTORS’ VIEWS.
Members of the theatrical profession appear to be very little stirred by the indignant protest registered by a section of the Actors’ Association against the employment of Chinese actors in East of Suez at His Majesty’s. Those who uttered the protest at the meeting of the association on Sunday evening claimed that these men of foreign nationality should not be employed while there are thousands of English actors out of engagements. But it is not merely a matter of giving preference to the Briton; if that were the only question involved there is surely not a producer who would not favour his fellow countrymen. The point is, could this scene, concerning which there has been so much discussion, be performed by any but Chinese? The bulk of opinion appears to be that it could not. Special interest attaches to the views of Mr. J. A E. Malone, who, with Mr. George Grossmith, presents East of Suez. Mr. Malone declared emphatically that only Chinese actors could impart to the scene a sense of reality. There was no question of getting cheap labour, for these Chinese supers were engaged on precisely the same terms as English supers – terms agreed upon by the organisations concerned.
“If the scene is to appear it must be strictly accurate, for the play is essentially a serious work,” Mr. Malone said. “These men have to talk Chinese and play on Chinese instruments. How would it be possible to get English supers to do that? The Chinese we have engaged are for the most part students over here, and before they agreed to play they stipulated that there should be no opium-smoking or gambling or anything that is derogatory to their country. That gives a very clear indication of how they regard their work.”
There was, continued Mr. Malone, another point involved. The theatre should know no nationality. To say that we should admit no foreign actors and actresses or foreign plays was to take a very insular view. The imposition of such a view would mean that the stage would be “cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d,” and it would operate against this country in a very serious manner. If Chinese were excluded where was the line to be drawn? Was it suggested that Americans should be excluded? That was of importance, because for every member of the American stage who came to this country ten, if not more, English actors and actresses went to America.
In conclusion, Mr. Malone pointed out that the public had indicated no objection to the appearance of Chinese actors on the stage of His Majesty’s; indeed, the reception of the scene had been most cordial and the advance bookings were heavy.