BBC Radio 3, 28 December 2008
This triple bill of one-acters proved beyond doubt that Maeterlinck was
not only a master of dramatic dialogue but someone foreshadowing Pinter in his understanding of the power of silence.
"The Intruder" was set in a lonely house menaced by an unknown intruder whom only
the blind grandfather could apparently see. Maeterlinck concentrates on the forces of darkness threatening the familiar milieu:
everyone knows they exist, but do not want to admit their presence. Rather the characters (except the grandfather) tried to
compensate for this by talking incessantly. Silence had to be avoided at all costs, otherwise the family might have had to
acknowledge that the grandfather's instincts were right.
"Seven Princesses" offered a variation on the Snow White/ Prince Charming story:
an old king and queen looked behind a glass at their sleeping daughter, yet found themselves powerless to intervene. All they
could do was to maintain an optimistic facade in the hope that someone would come and rescue her. It seemed at length that
their prayers had been answered as a Prince Charming-figure entered their daughter's room and endeavoured to wake her. Sadly
it was not to be; try as he might, he gave up and left her for dead. The play itself used the glass as a symbol of inaction;
if people just watch without becoming engaged, then misfortunes will occur. Direct involvement is the only course to follow.
"Interior" dealt with similar subject-matter, as it depicted an old man and his grandson
looking through the window of a family's house and enjoying the scene of domestic bliss. The only snag was that the old men
knew the family's daughter had been drowned, but could not pluck up the courage to tell them. As in "Seven Princesses," the
two of the, looked through the glass at the family occupying a different space - and a different time - but could not penetrate
it. The outcome was inevitable; like Hamlet, the old men spent too much time thinking on the event, and kept the family in
perpetual ignorance of the catastrophe.
Not much happened in all three plays; rather Maeterlinck forced us to consider what
was not said, which assumed far greater significance. Although only 20-25 minutes each, each play demanded intense
concentration from the listener. The five-strong cast took various roles - all of them (John Rowe, Sheila Reid, Paul Rider,
Tristan Gravelle and Margaret Mann) deserve commendation for their vocal virtuosity. The directors were Tristan Dromgoole
and Marc Beeby.