From The Western Morning News 13 June 1936.
Miss Thorndike Disappointing Play.
The novels and stories of Mr. Hugh Walpole are oddly persistent in finding their way into the theatre. The latest is "Kind Lady " —made into a play by Edward Chodorov— which was produced at the Lyric Theatre last night.
It tells of an elderly and wealthy spinster whose heart governs her head. She befriends a young and attractive down-and-out man who in next to no time has, with some fellow conspirators, taken possession of her house and made her a prisoner in her own room. He takes complete charge of everything, even selling her valuable collection of pictures and replacing them by others.
The play's chief merits are the unusualness of its theme and the fact that it provides a moderately good part for Miss Sybil Thorndike. Otherwise it has little to commend it, The plot is too slight for a three-act piece and, although it only plays for just over a couple of hours, it drags very badly at times, a fault which has not been helped by the production.
Miss Thorndike gives a powerful and moving study of the kind lady, suggesting beautifully her original largeness of heart and the gradual effect on her health and-mind of the treatment meted out to her. Mr. Robert Douglas at last having something more to do than look charming makes credible figure of the criminal "down and out".
From The Sheffield Independent 13 June 1936.
From The Era 17 June 1936.
Kind Lady at the Lyric
A play for sadists. Especially for those who find the piquancy of the spectacle of quiet, matter-of-fact cruelty enhanced by its being inflicted mentally instead of physically. There must be quite a number of sadists in New York. Kind Lady ran for a long time there. Personally, I found its nightmare quality far more disturbing when I had left the theatre than while actually watching it.
Not that it is a first-rate play even of its kind. Edward Chorodov, who took the story from Hugh Walpole’s "The Mask,” has written good, natural dialogue, and has built up the suspense of his scenes with slow subtlety, so that the play’s unhurried pace has an air of leisured and cumulative necessity, but he has laid himself open to the charge of sheer improbability by neglecting to clear up loose ends, such as the ultimate fate the shadowed maid, and he has dealt too arbitrarily with minor characters, killing one off, for instance, simply because her death made things easier for him as author.
His strength lies in the building up of the feeling of nightmarish oppression by apparently simple and unforced methods. In the scene where the rich and lonely spinster, who has befriended a plausible young crook and had her house invaded by him and his accomplices, commands them all to leave the place at once, and they behave as though they hadn’t heard her speak, the tension becomes almost tangible.
Yet everything is on the surface completely normal - the old fashioned drawing-room, the old lady trying to assert herself amidst the very ordinary people standing round her, a stout, bald-headed man who looks like a provincial grocer, a charwoman in a mackintosh, a rather silly young girl in a nightgown, a gaping ten-year-old in pigtails, quiet, well-dressed, well-mannered young man. Yet, when they all begin to close in around her, with almost imperceptible slowness, and to talk in even tones quite irrelevant things, the atmosphere suddenly seems to become distorted. What power the play has, in itself, lies in these suggestive touches of remorselessness. The power of the present production at the Lyric is, of course, Sybil Thorndike’s performance as the old lady. She makes the whole gradual process of victimisation almost unbearably vivid, working on the imagination by her detailed naturalism, and by her efforts to repress extremest terror. As the leader of the crooks, Robert Douglas handled a difficult part creditably. Behaving quite normally, even kindly, he had to suggest a man without a scrap of feeling or compunction, and he did it with a kind of inner stillness that was peculiarly effective. The other parts were all well-played, especially by Mabel Terry-Lewis and Charles Mortimer; but I don’t know now how many nightmare enthusiasts there are in London.