Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This play has nothing in common with the crude melodramas we have had about the war. It is, on the contrary, a fair and thoroughgoing study, carefully and strongly expressed, of opposing English and German ideals and customs. In the first act Margaret, an aristocratic English girl, has been staying with a German military family, and coming from an [...] and cold home, has been carried away by its effusive and jolly attentions to herself. The period is the early part of 1914. She has fallen in love with a Prussian lieutenant and in spite of her father’s opposition marries him. In act II they have been married five months and German boastfulness and other bad qualities have been getting on her nerves. She, too, has given dissatisfaction by not becoming a good ‘German wife’. In act III the difference is more acute. Margaret is disgusted by the conversation and manners of her husband’s brother officers. She is bullied by the colonel’s wife, who also abuses England: they quarrel and on her refusing to write a letter of humble apology at her husband’s dictation he - who is also jealous of her cousin, an English peer - tries violence, whereupon she decides to leave him. In act IV we are at a hotel in Luxembourg on the 4th of August. Margaret’s cousin and his mother - with whom she is staying - bewail England’s alleged intention to abandon her friends and stay out of the war. Margaret, too, is so moved by this idea that when her husband visits her - his regiment passing through the town - and tries to persuade her to go back to Germany she almost gives way, but on news coming that England has sent her ultimatum she tears up the passport he has given her and leaves for England with her relations. The bitterness about our alleged sitting on the defence is rather a pity (see act IV p2 and 9) as is reviving a disturbing memory but it does not go beyond a fair expression of opinion, right or wrong, which can hardly be forbidden. The German husband’s amorous violence in Act II p29 is disagreeable, but from the nature of the play I do not anticipate anything too disagreeable in its representation. Apart from these points there is nothing to be said except that the play is remarkable in its fairness. The points in German taste repugnant to us are emphasised [and] allowance is made of the heroine's English fault of judging them exclusively from our point of view. Recommended for license, G. S. Street

Researcher's Summary:

All dates of newspaper articles below are 1916. The play was apparently originally going to be called Huns at Home but the title was changed to Kultur at Home (Leeds Mercury, 28 February). When this play was submitted for licence no author was listed on the manuscript. Subsequent research has identified the authors as Rudolf Besier and Sybil Spottiswoode. Reviewers and commentators - no doubt drawing on publicity material provided by the company - often adduced as evidence of the authenticity of the play's portrayal of German life and manners that both authors had lived in Germany, including in a garrison town (Sunday Mirror, 27 February; Leeds Mercury, 28 February; Derby Daily Telegraph, 7 March; The Globe, 13 March; The Graphic, 18 March; Cheltenham Looker-On, 18 March; The Bystander, 22 March; Cheltenham Chronicle, 14 October Gloucestershire Echo, 17 October; Liverpool Daily Post, 20 October; Western Daily Press, 11 November; Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 18 November; Dundee People’s Journal, 2 December). It was also claimed that the play's story was based on fact (Derby Daily Telegraph, 7 March; Western Daily Press, 11 November; Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 18 November). It was noted that Sybil Spottiswoode's novel Her Husband's Country (1911) also had as heroine an English girl married to a Prussian officer and that it 'dealt in a remarkable way with life in small German garrison town’ (The People, 5 March). The British Library catalogue shows the following titles of other books by Sybil Spottiswoode which may bear on the subject matter of Kultur at Home: Marcia in Germany: An Indiscreet Chronicle (1908), Hedwig in England (1909) and Chronicles of a German Town (1915). The play provoked strong and varied reactions. Some reviewers and commentators, broadly speaking, and while making allowances for elements of exaggeration and caricature on the authors' part for the purpose of satire, exonerated the English heroine from any responsibility for the failure of her marriage to a German officer and saw the play as an accurate portrayal of the arrogance and beastliness of Prussian militarism and Germans' appalling treatment of women, characteristics of the race which should remind audiences of why they were fighting the war (The Daily Mirror, 13 March; The Globe, 13 March;The Graphic, 18 March and 20 May; Cheltenham Looker-On, 18 March; Leeds Mercury, 19 September; The Era, 18 October; Gloucestershire Echo, 17 October; Birmingham Daily Gazette, 31 October; Birmingham Daily Post, 31 October . Newcastle Journal, 7 November; Western Daily Press, 14 November; Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 18 November; Aberdeen Press and Journal, 25 and 28 November; Dundee Courier, 1 December; Dundee People’s Journal, 2 December; Dundee Evening Telegraph, 5 December). That interpretation of the play must have been reinforced by the audience's practice of joining the cast in singing the National Anthem at the end (The Era, 15 March; The Stage, 18 May). That interpretation of the play was recalled with displeasure in a review of Rudolf Besier’s new play The Barretts of Wimpole Street in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 11 October 1930 which noted, ‘A war-time effort of 1916 called “Kultur at Home,” by our author and Sybil Spottiswoode in collaboration, was less satisfying [than Besier’s Lady Patricia], since the authors, in a manner real authors have no right to do, lent themselves to a “Blond Beast” exaggeration which should have been left to the official propagandists of Whitehall’. However, writers of letters published in the Yorkshire Evening Post, 21 September, and the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 24 November, testified from personal experience respectively to how German men treated women as of secondary importance and to the 'extraordinary arrogance and swelled head of the German' that was 'admirably illustrated in the play'. Another correspondent, to the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 23 November, wrote that he had previously been hesitant about joining the army but seeing the play 'had awakened that real patriotism that surely lies in all our hearts, and now I feel glad to be able to go and “do my bit” irrespective of the cost, to justify our national pride of race'. Other writers saw the play as one-sided in favour of the British heroine (The Stage, 18 May), or as fair to both sides (The Era, 9 August), or, again broadly speaking, could see how both sides to the marriage proved unable to overcome differences between their respective national cultures as regards social attitudes, tastes and manners (The Scotsman, 13 March, The Era, 15 March; Freeman’s Journal, Dublin, 16 March; Illustrated London News, 18 March; Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 18 March and 12 August; The Tatler, 22 March; The Bystander, 22 March; The Sportsman, 11 May; Cheltenham Chronicle, 21 October). This line of interpretation could place the play in a broader context as an argument or warning against mixed national marriages (The Era, 15 March; Daily Record, 12 December); and see in it 'of one of the saddest problems which ever happen in war - the tug of patriotism versus affection, between husband and wife whose countries of their birth are fighting against one another' (The Tatler, 22 March). Some newspapers published photographs of cast members in scenes, or as characters, from the play (The Sketch, 22 March; The Graphic, 25 March; Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 25 March and 8, 22 and 29 April; Leeds Mercury, 16 September; Newcastle Journal, 4 November).

Licensed On: 24 Feb 1916

License Number: 78

British Library Reference: LCP1916/4

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66125 B

Performances

DateTheatreType
11 Mar 1916 Court Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
11 Mar 1916 Court Theatre, LondonProfessional
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Acts 1, 2, and 3 take place at Borstadt, a small garrison town in Prussia, in January and June, 1914. Act 4 takes place in Luxembourg on August 4, 1914’. The Pall Mall Gazette, 15 March 1916 printed as an advertisement the following reviews of Kultur at Home: The Sunday Times (J. T. Grein): ‘The play of the young year. The play of the war. It matters, it grips; since “An Englishman’s Home” we have not had a play with a purpose so intense, so interesting, so searching’. The Daily Mirror: ‘A more terrible indictment of Prussianism (the evil thing that we are out to fight and to slay) has never been penned’. The Daily Mail: ‘An amusing picture of a people who have lost their sense of humour’. The Daily News: ‘“Kultur at Home” is an interesting and thrilling play. Should be a success’. The Daily Express: ‘An intensely interesting, finely acted study of German domestic and military life, photographically true to life’. The Daily Graphic: ‘A remarkable play’. The Daily Sketch: ‘A brilliant, penetrating study of life in a German family. Mordant humour and relentless realism’. The Evening News: ‘Exceedingly well done and acted brilliantly’. The Pall Mall Gazette: ‘A very clever and very fair comparison of English and German failings’. The Evening Standard: ‘The first reasonable war play which has yet been written. One would like this play to succeed’. The Globe: ‘By far the finest war play the war has suggested. War or no war, it would carry conviction as a wonderfully faithful picture of German life’. The Referee: ‘Bright, satirical, but scrupulously fair; finely acted and received with every favour’. The Weekly Dispatch: ‘There is very much more than a good entertainment in “Kultur at Home”’. The People: ‘The audience laughed heartily. They were so moved when, in the final moments of the play, war is declared, that they joined in singing the national anthem’. Lloyd’s Weekly: ‘The play is a scathing indictment of German social customs’. The News of the World: An elaborate and convincing study of English and German manners. The play held the house’. ‘“Kultur at Home” … is by far the finest play the war has suggested. But it is not really a “war play.” It would stand, in all times, for a tragedy of girlhood misguided. War or war, it would carry conviction as a wonderfully faithful picture of German life … Let no one say the picture is overdrawn. Rather let it be explained to the uninformed reader that there are some bestialities of German character and conduct in home life, where even there is culture of a kind, too gross and horrible for suggestion on the stage, and therefore eliminated from this picture. The touch of Hogarth is hardly for the modern theatre'. The Globe, 13 March 1916. ‘Kultur at Home obviously has the purpose of bringing before the playgoing public certain aspects of German life with which the reading public is already familiar … There is considerable skill and satirical humour in the pictures of middle-class Prussian life, and an effort has been made at something like impartiality, but, in fact, the contrast between the fastidious, refined English girl and the group of little provincials is too extreme to be satisfactory, and decidedly weakens the dramatic value of the work, whilst the motive of the heroine’s behaviour in the last act seems a little farfetched'. The Scotsman, 13 March 1916. ‘With the scrupulous fairness on which, as a nation, we pride ourselves, Mr. Rudolf Besier and Mrs. Sybil Spottiswoode, in their play “Kultur at Home" … have divided our sympathies between a husband and wife of different nationalities, both unadaptable, each possessed of the typical characteristics of the nation to which they belong, and minus the true basis of love - comradeship. Although undeniably interesting, the play is unhappy in that in England, at any rate, it answers no purpose except as an argument against mixed marriages. In the impossible event of its production in Germany, it would certainly have the surprising effect of answering the prayer which we are teaching the Prussian officer to make, “O, wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us” … The play was very well received. In response to loud calls, the authors appeared, and joined with the audience in the singing of “God save the King,” led by Mr. Otho Stuart and Mr. Malcolm Cherry, still in his field uniform’. The Era, 15 March 1916. ‘The most notable play of the year, so far as it has gone, is “Kultur at Home … The piece is not so much a drama as a highly-coloured panoramic view of life as lived in a Teutonic military environment. It is the story of an English girl, who, in 1914, came to a little garrison town, somewhere in Prussia, fell in love with an officer, married him despite her father’s objections, and paid dearly for her venture. The clash of racial manners and ideals is well developed by the authors … but the piece does not act to foster hatred between the two peoples, and its main lesson is that “Kultur” and “Culture” are as widely separated as the poles'. Freeman’s Journal, Dublin, 16 March 1916. ‘Scarcely a war-play, it is, nevertheless, a piece of stage-journalism, a drama of propagandist intent, which Mr. Besier and his colleague Sybil Spottiswoode have given at the Court in “Kultur at Home.” Theirs is a tale of mixed marriage - English girl with Prussian officer - and it draws a contrast between German and English ideas of culture. The authors try to hold the scales fairly, and, if they expose the narrowness and truculence of the sort of views held about domestic life and conduct and art and manners in a German garrison town, they do not fail to credit the unaccommodating English wife with a certain air of condescension and recklessness of opinion … there are emotional scenes provided that stir the blood, thanks to the strong acting of Miss Rosalie Toller and Mr. Malcolm Cherry, and address an appeal to national sentiment. So that, as a tract for the times as well as an exciting story, “Kultur at Home” has a right to expect a good measure of popular patronage’. Illustrated London News, 18 March 1916. ‘The new play Kultur at Home, which was produced last Saturday at the Court Theatre, bids fair to be a success. In spite of its title, it is not really war play, but rather a dramatic study of the contrast between the Prussian and the English temperament in domestic life … there could have been no better medium for the exposure of the aspirations and beliefs, the provincial culture and the bullying disposition, of the militant Prussian, than this version of what is, I believe, the very common story of the refined and educated Englishwoman who has had the ill luck to marry into a Prussian family’. Cheltenham Looker-On, 18 March 1916. '‘We are a queer people! A few years ago we should have disbelieved anybody who got up and told us that the German could be such a beast as, since August, 1914, he has proved himself to be in the mass. Now we disbelieve any account of Goodness which comes out of Germany at all. Probably they are doing just the same thing in Germany with regard to ourselves, except that, very probably, the German ‘‘hate’’ point of view is even more exaggerated than ours. But that, of course, is easily understandable in a nation which possesses not the least vestige of a sense of humour... Kultur at Home is far and away the best “war” play we have had since the war played havoc with all plays. It is dignified; it is fair and just; above all, it is serene … Kultur at Home is not only the best war play we have had, but it is also one of the best acted - certainly one of the most interesting plays to be seen in London at the present time. Its chief dramatic merit is that the authors have not committed the fault of elaboration, a process that spoils many a good picture’. The Tatler, 22 March 1916. ‘Mr. Rudolf Besier and Miss Sybil Spottiswoode have obviously got their facts concerning “Kultur” at first-hand, and the result of their work is a most reliable and interesting picture of life in a Prussian Garrison Town. The satire is without any trace of cheap malice, and is, therefore, all the more enjoyable'. The Bystander, 22 March 1916. 'although the authors have collected for their German models such extreme cases of brain-warped arrogance and sensuality that the characters become more ludicrous than repulsive, and cannot be taken to represent average Prussian households, it is probable that in every home in that misguided land there is to be found a good deal of the atmosphere now created on the Court Theatre stage, so that this partial fidelity to type, added to the wit of the language used, has provided an equally interesting and entertaining play. Some people say that the public want to forget the war when they are in the theatre, and others that plays about the war are just the things with which to attract people at present. The success of some war-topic pieces and the failure of others has, however, once again proved that the way a play is written is more important than the general subject around which it is built, or, in other words, that “The play’s the thing.” All the same, there is no doubt that “Kultur at Home” owes most of its attraction to the presence of the Germans in the piece, and that these same Germans would not have had half the fascination for us a couple of years ago, so that there is something to be said for topicality on the stage after all … . But for the inexorable law of space one could dwell for columns on the many incidents which show the difference between the German and English points of view, and these really form the fascination of the piece'. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 1 April 1916. ‘Huns on Kultur at Home. I admit to a certain amount of surprise when I was told at the Court Theatre yesterday that “Kultur at Home,” which is running there, has been receiving Press notices in Germany. Mr. Otho Stuart tells me he has received a cutting from the Vossische Zeitung commenting at length upon the production. The Hun calls it a garbled version of a German book, and says that all the faults the German attributed to England the English attribute to Germany’ Daily Mirror, 6 April 1916. ‘The review in The Athenaeum, no. 4604 (April 1916), 207, is less critical [than a review in the Times, 13 March 1916]. Although the play is seen as “exaggerated”, “illogical on some points” and containing “a glaring inconsistency”, it is described as “the best play with particular reference to the war yet put on the stage” (Heinz Kosok, The Theatre of War. The First World War in British and Irish Drama (Palgrave: Basingstoke, 2007, p. 271 n. 85; viewed at https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/bbm978-0-230-59064-91.pdf). According to the index there are further mentions of the play at pp. 86–7, 170, 196 and 236.
10 May 1916 Strand Theatre, LondonProfessional
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'Anything might have happened to “Kultur at Home.” What did was that it met not merely with toleration, which would have been significant, but with actual approval. Its main appeal was to a rooted love of justice and fair play innate in us. We are willing to learn what the German may be in his respectable aspect. On one side he is of sentimentality all compact, though underlying this quality a brutality of thought lurks which he will exhibit in act if he may do so with apparent immunity from retribution. This savagery sleeps when no occasion arises for unchaining it, as in the picture presented by this play of a German household into which a sweet and trusting but firm-willed English girl has been received … Given the opposed national characteristics, the chances are that rarely any other issue can follow. The playwrights have held the scales evenly. Blame cannot be apportioned wholly to either side. The outbreak of war cuts the tangle that could have been loosed only so. The story grips one, but some of its persistence may be due to the spectators’ smug conviction of impartiality where prejudice would be excusable, and its contrary is admirable. Abundant laughter at the lighter passages points that moral’. The Sportsman, 11 May 1916. ‘Two months when “Kultur at Home” was produced by Mr. Otho Stuart at the Court Theatre, we described it as “bv far the finest play the war has suggested.” Its faithful – and revolting - picture of German life and “love” has not failed to make a strong appeal to the public … Those who desire to realise the true meaning of “kultur” and how utterly incompatible are the English and German temperaments should certainly witness Mr. Besier’s and Miss Spottiswoode’s play’. The Globe, 12 May 1916. 'One still wonders how it happened that a sensitive, refined English lady of family came to marry into such a vulgar, boisterous Prussian set, although not much in love with the young man; and also why she made so poor an effort to adapt herself to the new life chosen with open eyes. And it is still difficult, or impossible, to believe in her conduct during the last act. On the other hand, a great deal of the work is amusing - rather horribly - and much is thrilling; also, with all her faults, one has an almost breathless sympathy with the unhappy heroine when she discovers the full horror of her position'. The Sketch, 17 May 1916. 'one can praise the acting whole-heartedly without feeling so generous towards the play itself. When the actualities of war with a nation such as Germany are daily brought home to us, there is a feeling that a mimic representation on the stage of a German meanness and boorishness in home life savours somewhat of the petty. After all Kultur at Home presents the Case rather one-sidedly. All the Germans in the play are faulty in their manners, feelings, or in some other way, and all the English are not. One can state this without at all lowering the temperature of one’s patriotic sentiment'. The Stage, 18 May 1916. ‘Everybody should make a point of seeing “Kultur at Home" … for it affords a valuable insight into the real cause of the present war. It is difficult for the “plain man” in this country to realise the true significance of militarism and Kultur - the kernel of Teutonism - but when the thing is seen in working order, as it were, in the German home, the horror of it all comes as a revelation. M. Bessier and Miss Sybil Spottiswoode have given us a valuable piece of work'. The Graphic, 20 May 1916. ‘After many plucky and energetic attempts to gauge the inclination of wartime audiences, managers have discovered precisely the kind of fare that suits the taste the present day, and have provided plays light, bright, entertaining, and of sufficient interest to distract attention temporarily from the war and its million attendant anxieties. The one play touching on the war that has-been seen this year, “Kultur at Home” by Mr. Rudolf Besier and Mrs. Sybil Spottiswoode, was less concerned with the present crisis than with the differences of thoughts and ideals, set forth with scrupulous fairness, of England and Germany, as demonstrated in the home life of the inhabitants of the two countries’. The Era, 9 August 1916. ‘Mr. Rudolf Besier… in conjunction with Mrs. Spottiswoode … was responsible for “Kultur at Home,” which was an interesting study of the German in his own country and, perhaps unintentionally, a no less interesting study of the behaviour of English people in Germany. It had dramatic moments and considerable humour, in spite of a certain crudeness, and enjoyed some success’. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 12 August 1916.
28 Aug 1916 Theatre Royal, BathProfessional
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‘My Bath correspondent informs me that the first provincial performance of “Kultur at Home” was received with enthusiasm by a fine house on Monday. Miss Beatrice Smith and Charles B. Vaughan scored big successes in leading parts’. The Era, 30 August 1916.
4 Sep 1916 Theatre Royal, BrightonProfessional
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At the Theatre Royal, Brighton ‘Mr. Otho Stuart presents “Kultur at Home” for the first time locally, an admirable all-round company having been engaged for the production, and packed audience witnessed the performance on Monday evening. The cast includes Otho Stuart, Chas. B. Vaughan, Beatrice Smith, Edward Bonfield, Claude Vernon, Richard Norton, Alex. Begbie, Martin Ricci, Basil Bowen J. C. Woodiwiss, Elizabeth Dudgeon, Sinna St. Clair, Aileen Wyse, Henzie Raeburn, A. P. Nicholson, Margaret Foy, &c’. The Era, 6 September 1916.
11 Sep 1916 Theatre Royal, ManchesterProfessional
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‘“Kultur at Home,” as its title indicates, is an attempt to portray the German military mind in the domestic side of life. The author has only achieved a moderate success, and the play, apart from a very fine conclusion, is conspicuously thin. Dealing with the uppermost subject of the day, the melodrama - for it is little else - finds a sympathetic audience that in other times would be less tolerant of its obvious defects. “Kultur at Home” has the advantage of being extremely well played, Miss Beatrice Smith, Mr. Charles B. Vaughan, and Mr. Otho Stuart making the most of the opportunities afforded them’. Manchester Evening News, 12 September 1916.
18 Sep 1916 Grand, LeedsProfessional
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‘“Kultur at Home" … is essentially a war-time play, depending for most of its popularity upon the hostility of the people at home towards the enemy, whilst the noise of battle resounds. Its theme - the exposition of the failings of the German social system - is to the lay mind a simple one, but it is full of pitfalls for the dramatist. To the audience at home the atmosphere at the outset is necessarily somewhat artificial, and the elimination of exaggeration is extremely difficult. In “Kultur at Home” the authors … have to a large extent avoided the tendency to over-draw the picture, and, after a thin opening, a really strong finale has prevented the play degenerating into a very moderate melodrama'. Leeds Mercury, 19 September 1916.
9 Oct 1916 Kennington Theatre, KenningtonProfessional
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'The piece, which deals with period just prior to the outbreak of war, furnishes an indication of the savagery of the Prussian nation which subsequent events proved to be no exaggeration, and the stirring incidents of the play were followed with ever-increasing interest by an appreciative audience'. The Era, 18 October 1916.
16 Oct 1916 Theatre and Opera House, CheltenhamProfessional
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'It is not a melodrama with cheap attempts at sensationalism, realism, and “local colour,” but an intensely interesting study of life in a German garrison town, just before the outbreak of the war, by two gifted dramatists who have had actual experience of the environment which they have so successfully pourtrayed [sic], and who have handled their subject with humour, discretion, and restraint … Readers should on no account miss this brilliant play, with its topical interest, satirical humour, strong emotional scenes, and delightful comedy passages. The company … has been personally rehearsed by Mr. Otho Stuart, the celebrated producer, and the entire production, furniture, and accessories from Court and Strand Theatres, London, are carried’. Cheltenham Chronicle, 14 October 1916. ‘One left the Theatre on Monday with of the greatness of the power of the stage when it is not frittering itself away upon things unworthy. [In] “Kultur at Home” … Rudolf Besier and Sybil Spottiswoode have dealt with a problem of the utmost importance to the British race - the psychology of its great enemy Most the [German] people in the play are quite excellent folk from their national point view, and the motif of the play is the clash of these ideals with the wife’s English notions. This clash leads to situations that the audience follow with an interest tense that for the most part it seems to forget those manifestations of approval or dislike which are ordinarily the outcome of plays which merely interest in an objective way, and to feel themselves a part of the material of the play. We, who have somewhat outgrown the concepts which not so long ago made the Britisher a very ridiculous fool, have not sufficiently realised what this play teaches us: that the Germans, once a quiet homely folk, have become a race of which every member has been taught, by ages of skilful drilling in the lesson, to thank God (“who is a German, too”) that he (the German) is a German. This national trait has found its highest manifestation in the Army, for which apparently the state exists, rather than the army for the state, just as from the German point of view the woman merely exists for the benefit of the man - always, of course, that Germany, that is the Army, may be great and glorious and tread under its rough-shod heels its enemies, who are everybody who does not appreciate its God-given mission of glorifying the German Army … The dominance of the military caste and the blind acquiescence of the German woman in the god-like superiority of her male folk, because they represent the army - that is Germany, and German ideals triumphant in the world – whereas they are in our eyes behaving like coarse, low cads gratifying their own vulgar selfishness, is a pathetic feature'. Gloucestershire Echo, 17 October 1916. '“Kultur at Home” is a decidedly successful attempt to enlighten the Briton on the outlook of the Teuton at home - and nations as well as individuals must be seen at home to be known … The piece is the more educational in that although the characters are strongly drawn and the bias of the authors is not hidden, yet in the main the balance is not very unfairly weighed against the Teuton. Our own feelings may cause us to sympathise wholeheartedly with the heroine, but if we saw the work from the German point of view we should probably sympathise with the hero, whom the authors have not selected from the worst of his class or from the comic-paper sausage-sauerkraut spectacles and swipes type. On the contrary, he is drawn as an excellent young fellow, who stands for his Teutonic ideals in a way that makes us sorry rather than angry with him, for some of us know how the swollen-headed of our own race are … by the time the curtain goes down the final scene - a truly magnificent thrill in which the audience are no longer spectators, but by virtue of nationality seem to be taking part in the acting - there must be very few who have not learnt something more for what Britain and her Colonies and her Allies are standing than ever they knew before … The difficulty is that until the Teuton has learnt his lesson he, like the rest of us, will continue to regard [his] ugly ideals as his real god. Our Tommies are probably proving the best possible missionaries to him!’. Cheltenham Chronicle, 21 October 1916.
23 Oct 1916 Winter Gardens, WallaseyProfessional
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‘An insight into English life in Germany provided by “Kultur at Home,” a striking play produced at the Winter Gardens, New Brighton. The authors know the land and the force of the Prussian military, and a most interesting and scathing story is propounded. Its patriotic conclusion, where the term “We’re in it” appeals to the audience, is an appropriate finale’. Liverpool Echo, 24 October 1916.
30 Oct 1916 Prince of Wales Theatre, BirminghamProfessional
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'The play is good of its kind, but in times like the present, when most people go the theatre to seek forgetfulness of the grim tragedy which is occupying their thoughts from day to day, one feels that an apology is due for the presentation of a problem play dealing with the war. If the purpose of the play be to enforce some lesson it is necessary for the nation to learn in order to bring the war to speedier end, well and good. But there is no such purpose inspiring the authors of “Kultur at Home.” On the contrary, it deals with a problem which, although acute enough before the war, is hardly likely to arise for long time after it, and not at all while it is in progress. The motive of the play is very similar to that in “His German Wife,” but the position of husband and wife is reversed, and the dramatic element is much more pronounced. From an artistic point of view the play possesses serious faults - faults of exaggeration, of anachronism, and of distortion of facts, which are the more glaring and irritating because the motive is sufficiently strong in itself to produce an equally dramatic result without any such violation. There were moments when one felt an almost irresistible desire to rise from one’s seat and protest, and there were distinct of impatience in the stalls as well as in the gallery. One could pass over the references to newspapers which suggested when British intervention in the European imbroglio became imminent that by remaining neutral we might capture the trade of both sides. But there were signs of unrest when a representative of the English peerage accused the Foreign Office of sitting on the fence, and expressed the fear that the French would scorn to accept his services in the Foreign Legion. Even in Luxembourg on August 5th an Englishman ought to have known better. Apart from these faults, which the authors seem to have incurred through striving after dramatic effect, which the motive of the play was quite capable of affording without such unnecessary effort, the play is well written, and strikes a truly dramatic note'. Birmingham Mail, 31 October 1916. ‘Of the several plays inspired by the war “Kultur at Home,” which is making its first appearance in Birmingham at. the Prince of Wales Theatre this week, has perhaps created the greatest sensation since “The Man Who Stayed at Home” was produced. The idea of the authors is to give a picture of the German officer and the German wife as they are to be found in their natural environment, and the story throughout is suggestive of the brutal bullying nature of the Prussian officer and the weak, suffering humility of his frau. It is not a pleasant story, rather is it repellent, but it is exceedingly interesting and very human, though at times the characters appear rather overdrawn'. Birmingham Daily Gazette, 31 October 1916. '“Kultur at Home" … interprets in an admirable degree the spirit of the times; it breathes the atmosphere of enmity engendered by war, the view of one belligerent as seen by another. In depicting German “kultur” or frightfulness, to use the term with which it has become synonymous, nothing can too grotesque or ugly, and had the authors attempted to paint in more lurid colours the devilry - what Sir Oliver Lodge calls “the able, well organised, but evil, devilry” – of the Germans the enthusiasm which the audience displayed at the close of last evening’s performance might have been even greater … the piece demands a peculiar frame of mind, a sense of overwhelming patriotism, in order to be enjoyed. To approach it from any other point of view is to court disappointment. Certainly the ardent pacifist will not like it; but perhaps if he reads its real meaning and interpretation something will have been done to secure his conversion. Frankly, it is a caricature - a drawing of an enemy, in which the more gross the distortion the more acceptable it becomes. The author who in these times attempts to present with an eye only to artistic truth and impartiality the fundamental differences of two nations at war sets himself a task in which he can scarcely hope to be successful. With the drama of war invading every sphere, touching intimately every home, we are apt to lose our sense of proportion, and become impatient at any attempt to exhibit the German ideal in impartial terms. Not that there is much effort made in this direction in the play under notice. “Kultur at Home” is crude; it is the doctrine of brute force, as it might be expected to apply to the home life of a German with an English wife. The result appeals with irresistible force to audiences at the moment'. Birmingham Daily Post, 31 October 1916.
6 Nov 1916 Tyne Theatre, NewcastleProfessional
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‘The war has been responsible for not a few plays which are popular, but one of the newest is that of “Kultur at Home,” now located at the Tyne Theatre … where it bids fair to become quite as popular as it has proved in London and in several provincial towns. The plot chiefly centres round the German idea of life, and is worked out with realistic effect. It gives a sound insight into both home and public life, and we see the arrogant German, with a touch of the Prussian militarism in him, painted true to his character. An English audience would have smiled at such a personage a few years ago, but to-day they think differently, and readily accept the pictures drawn, and these are by means exaggerated'. Newcastle Journal, 7 November 1916.
13 Nov 1916 Prince's Theatre, BristolProfessional
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'Those who know Germany and the Germans thoroughly declare that the authors … have not been unfair in their picture of the German home life, of the colossal conceit of these people, and the utterly ridiculous attitude towards the rest of mankind of the Prussian lieutenant. Indeed, it is in keeping with the German religious and military writers and with the speeches of the All “Highest.” So when the English girl rebelled against the systematic insults and crushings inflicted, by her new relations and friends our English audience was thrilled. But it is difficult to believe that a girl of the instinct and intelligence of our heroine could have been so blinded by love as not to see how the Germans treated their women folk. Moreover, however hideous the brutality may seem to our minds it must not be forgotten that in the course of generations it has become an accepted law, and the absolute sacrifice of everything for the ideal of the regiment has produced a military nation second to none up till now. “Kultur at Home” is worth seeing, for it enables us to grasp how it is that the Germans are “blonde beasts” and why it is they have no humour'. Western Daily Press, 14 November 1916.
20 Nov 1916 The Opera House, NorthamptonProfessional
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'The patriotic sentiment of the day and the natural antipathy for things German would inevitably make any play popular which exhibited German life in an unfavourable light, but “Kultur at Home” has a higher purpose than that. Although it is intensely dramatic and abounds in points which, because of their truth and consequent appeal to popular feeling evoke storms of applause, it is not a melodrama, but a faithful picture of German life just before the war drawn by two gifted dramatists, who have lived in the surroundings which they have depicted. It unveils the unceasing hatred of England which alone could have prompted the constant yearning for “Der Tag.” The story of the play is largely founded on fact'. Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 18 November 1916.
27 Nov 1916 His Majesty's, AberdeenProfessional
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'The play gives a faithful picture of German life just previous to the war, and reveals, amusingly to British eyes, the arrogant bombast and conceit of the Prussian military caste. It unveils, too, the real Germany, not so much the Germany that the British tourist used to see who spent a week on the Rhine, but the Germany of the garrison towns where the “invincible army” has been for forty years in relentless preparation, and where the gospel of “Der Tag” was preached daily. The play, besides being entertaining and enlightening, has many dramatic scenes, and a thrilling denouement at the outbreak of war’. Aberdeen Press and Journal, 25 November 1916. 'If the performance last night at His Majesty’s Theatre was given a hearty applause that seemed the setting of a premium upon bestial German ideals, let us at least remember that Britishers can laugh at our own follies and tolerate - to a limit -the criminal follies of others. What was shown last night was good-humoured contempt for the innermost conceptions of a militarist Germany - a laugh at what they hold most sacred. So much we can afford. But the piece brings home deeper thoughts, and among must be the stupid reverence at one time dominating Britain in all things German. We had warnings enough. The delightful author of “Elizabeth in her German Garden,” for example, had shown us much - and she a German wife - of what the military caste meant ["Elizabeth in her German Garden" by Elizabeth von Arnim was first published in 1898]. Yet we neglected all of it. Now, in what was conceived in farce and wrought out in tragedy, we begin to appreciate the real value of the Hun … The officers of the Prince Oscar Wilhelm Infantry were the type we have read of not only in Gorman official orders but in German confessions from prisoners captured at the front - the arrogant lot whose excess of fortitude in driving their troops to sure destruction was only equalled by their weak despair when the British bayonet was met'. Aberdeen Press and Journal, 28 November 1916. Mr. Otho Stuart’s company appearing in “Kultur at Home” at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen includes Messrs. Edward Bonfield, Richard Norton, Charles B. Vaughan, Frederick Burtwell, Alexander Begbie, R. Norton, Basil Bowen, J. C. Woodiwiss, Fred Scace, Frank Allen, Misses Elspeth Dudgeon, Beatrice Smith, Aileen Wyse, Sinna St Clair, Henzie Raeburn, Gladys St. Clair, Marjorie Foy and Patricia Nicholson. The Era, 29 November 1916.
4 Dec 1916 Her Majesty's Theatre, DundeeProfessional
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‘“Kultur at Home" … is a contribution of unique interest to war literature, for it presents a fair and honest, if satirical, representation of German life in a garrison town. It emphasises the contrast between Briton and Teuton, but does so in a kindly manner'. Dundee Courier, 1 December 1916. 'This stirring play gives a faithful picture of German life just before the war, and shows amusingly to English eyes the arrogance, bombast, and conceit of the Prussian military classes'. Dundee People’s Journal, 2 December 1916. '‘The war play, “Kultur at Home" … is a most interesting and absorbing play, although perhaps a little belated so far as its intention goes. The moral of the play is that it is dangerous for an English - or British - woman to marry a German officer. Surely after two years of war this moral does not require to be pointed'. Dundee Courier, 5 December 1916. '‘Frankly it, is impossible at the present moment to be deeply interested in any play which deals with German character and takes place on German soil. We know that German character, our lads on land and sea know it, and we don’t like it. It does not need a play such as “Kultur at Home” to bring home to us the barbarous traits in the Teutonic nature and purpose, the names of Edith Cavell, Captain Fryatt, and the tragedy of the Lusitania are enough for us. True “Kultur at Home” deals with domestic affairs, but the characteristics of the German nation are as prominent in home matters as in their world politics. Of course drama ought to be judged from a broad point of view, and such a narrow outlook as the above ought to be disregarded in art criticism. But it is there, and will persist besides that the authors have given us a play in which sentiment and patriotism are woven into single scheme'. Dundee Evening Telegraph, 5 December 1916.
11 Dec 1916 King's Theatre, GlasgowProfessional
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'‘If not exactly a war play, “Kultur at Home" … possesses all the elements of an appeal to emotions arising from the war. It concerns German military life in a garrison town, having for its foundation the experiences of a typical English girl married to a Prussian officer, and it presents the German character in such an aspect that no one is surprised that in the end the wife seeks shelter from her marital state by returning to Britain. A picture is presented of Prussian people and surroundings, their point of view, and their manners. There is more study of personality than dramatic structure about the play, though the authors have succeeded in achieving several strong dramatic moments'. The Scotsman, 12 December 1916. '‘Glasgow’s verdict upon “Kultur at Home,” as reflected last night at the King’s Theatre by the large audience, was a flattering testimonial to a strong play. The picture which the playwright has drawn of life in the Fatherland does not credit the Teutons with a superfluity of taste or of delicacy. It boldly insists that vulgarity and brutality are the chief ingredients in the German’s make-up. Whether true or exaggerated, the play sounds a warning on the subject of mixed national marriages'. Daily Record, 12 December 1916.
18 Dec 1916 Royal Lyceum Theatre, EdinburghProfessional
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The play is listed as ‘on the road’ at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh from 18 December in The Era, 20 December 1916.