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by Menander

Translated by Glibert Murray

The Questors Theatre ("Tin Hut")
February 1946

Directed by Barbara Hutchins
Designed by Ernest Ives
Lighting by Michael Kelly
Costumes by Marjorie Ives

Programme Flier Press Cuttings
programme.PDF 1946_arbitration flier01.jpg 1946_arbitration flier02.jpg


Anthony Allen, Maurice Ballinger, Isobel Benns, Peter Curtis, Alfred Emmet, Sheila Gosling, Lona Halkett, Mary Hills, Albert Hooper, Terence Kirk, John Maegregor, Jean Mcconnell, George Mooney, Joan Pyle, Denis Robinson, Francis W. Smith, Tom W. Franklin, Frank White, Francis Williams

Production Team:
Joyce Harland, Barbara Hutchins, Ernest Ives, Marjorie Ives, Michael Kelly, George mooney, Diana Rutland


It is only those members of very long standing who will remember our production in 1936 of The Birds, by Aristophanes, the last of the writers of the "old" Greek comedy. Now, ten years later, we are presenting one of the best-known examples of the art of Menander, born about 342 BC, and generally considered, with his coarser rival Philemon, to be the inventor of the "new" comedy and, indeed, of comedy as we know it to-day.

During his lifetime Menander's work was not favourably viewed by the official judges, and it was not until after his death that he achieved great and lasting fame. Much of his work, albeit somewhat blunted and coarsened to suit Roman taste, was copied and translated by Latin playwrights, many of whom, Terence in particular, modelled their plays upon his.

While still keeping his plots and characters standardised, Menander's work varies considerably from that of other comedy writers, both in choice of subject and in his expert character drawing. Where the old writers delighted in elaborate and cumbersome stories of gods and goddesses, kings and princes, Menander weaves simple little tales about ordinary everyday life and, in fact, seems to indicate a general disbelief in the myths. Thus, while the old ritual is still there — the foundling child symbolising the Renewal of Life is restored to its parents, the free-born maiden is redeemed from slavery — all is told with such a warmth of characterisation, such a richness of humour, that his plays live for us to-day with all their old freshness; and as they advance to meet us across the gap of centuries, so ably bridged by Professor Gilbert Murray, we recognise with delight the forerunners of many of our best-loved comedy characters of to-day.

In introducing The Arbitration to our audiences we probably can do no better than to quote Professor Gilbert Murray's own words :-

"There is great fascination in the fragments of Menander. I find it not merely in the ease and Attic salt of his style, or the subtle and kindly realism of his characters. There is a charm even in his conventionalities — the situations and stage tricks, now old-fashioned, which he caught at a moment when they were still young and fresh . . . .

"Free and natural as it is in outward appearance, there can be little doubt that the New Comedy, like all, or almost all, Greek Drama, was, in its essence the performance of a religious ritual. It took the form of what we may call a Nativity Play, celebrating the annual discovery, when all earth seems dead, of that Renewal of Life which we think of as the New Year, or the Spring, but which was to the Greeks a Being far more personal. This ritual, in its simplest shape still to be found in some Easter celebrations in Italy and Eastern Europe, used the symbol of a divine babe or lamb or young animal to typify the new life . . . .

"At another stage, the rite developed into drama, and the birth into an heroic myth. An outcast babe found in the wild woods . . . is really the son of a god and a royal maiden and, after suitable adventures and sufferings, is duly recognised. The baby, though its presence is essential, is no longer the centre of interest . . . Here the ritual is transferred from the tragic to the comic stage and the story brought down to a human level. In New Comedy, the outcast babe is the fruit of some forbidden or secret amour, and the recognition exalts him, not to divinity, but merely to wealth and fortune . . . . "