Enid Bagnold Richard Watts, Jr. - Essay

Richard Watts, Jr.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It was my disturbing impression [while watching "The Chalk Garden"],… that Enid Bagnold, its author, had perhaps written the wrong play. She introduced some odd and interesting characters, provided them with a provocative situation, revealed signs of an original sense of humor and demonstrated that she is the possessor of a graceful and intelligent prose style, but it seemed to me that the resulting drama … rarely came to life in the fashion it kept hopefully suggesting….

Since Miss Bagnold seemed to regard all of [her characters] with freshness of humor and to write about them with amused appreciation, I thought it appeared likely that she was going to offer us an entertainingly, mad comedy concerning their curious interrelationships. And there was every indication that she had just the proper style for it. But it wasn't long before it became evident that she was up to more serious matters. There was, for instance, that garden, which, it proved, was made of chalk and was highly symbolic.

It was this symbolism, it seemed to me, that got in her way…. Instead of adding point to the play, it resulted in a stubborn refusal of the narrative to remain properly alive.

Richard Watts, Jr., "A Play with a Symbolic Garden," in New York Post (reprinted from The New York Post, © 1955, New York Post Corporation), October 27, 1955 (and reprinted in New York Theatre Critics' Reviews, Vol. 16, No. 20, October 31, 1955, p. 229).