Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

A spirited little play with a patriotic intention, though in my opinion rather a mistake. One Graham is an ex-soldier and now the president of the ‘Ship Repairers’ federation. A strike is impending at the beginning of the war which will delay the sending of transports. The audience gather that it has been organised by Leyries, a German spy on the strike committee and Davis, his accomplice. Curran, Graham’s assistant, refuses to send telegrams calling out the men on patriotic grounds and is dismissed by Graham at the same time he is called out as an army reservist. A Colonel Lock calls and has an argument with Graham, an honest, misguided man, on the elements of patriotism, employers versus employees and so on. Graham is obdurate, but Curran, returning in uniform, catches Leyries telephoning to another spy. There is a fight, Leyries and Davis are arrested and Graham, convinced at last, lets his true emotion as an ex-soldier have its way as a regiment marches by. While I do not think that the discussion of the questions involved, though rather provocative of differences in the audience, can do any harm, especially as some irritating matter has been crossed out and patriotism triumphs, I think it a pity a play making out a strike to be the result of spying should be produced at present, as exacerbating feeling on the subject. Interference is unnecessary, however, and would be misunderstood. I presume there is no actual body called the ship repairers’ federation [...]

Licensed On: 12 Mar 1916

License Number: 96



British Library Reference: LCP1916/4

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66125 T


20 Mar 1916 Lyric, LiverpoolUnknown Licensed Performance
20 Mar 1916 Lyric, LiverpoolProfessional
Read Narrative
'The author of this playlet is a well-known official of the Labour Party and City Councillor of Liverpool, who has already given to the stage "The Riot Act," on which was showered much deserved praise. But it must be said that Mr.Sexton is again putting into dramatic form the "capital versus labour" idea, has not reached anything like the high level of his former effort, although "The Boys of the Old Brigade" contains several effective points which appeal to the more popular sections of an audience. The story is told in the office of the Labour Federation, where Secretary Graham, owing to the employers having rejected the men's demands, is about to issue orders for the stopping of the transport work of the country. The appeal of his old Colonel not to take such a course in view of the prevailing war is brushed aside, Graham pointing out that the reasonable claims of the men had been put forward in times of peace, and dallied with by the masters until the outbreak of hostilities. But the discovery and arrest in the office of two German spies (Lewis and Davies), who had helped in fomenting the labour troubles, induced the secretary to change his mind, and the curtain fell leaving the impression that everything would be done to assist the country in its hour of need. Mr Gerald Kennedy tried to infuse life into the part of the secretary, and Mr Frank Forbes-Robertson, as the young clerk who preferred to dismiss itself rather than send out the strike messages, made the most of his opportunities. The other characters were somewhat minor, and merely completed the picture. (The Era - Wednesday 22 March 1916). 'This piece is from the pen of James Sexton, a well-known Liverpool JP and Labour representative. It is, one is constrained to say, less a dramatic expression of a definite idea or emotional feeling of any kind, than it is a piece of propaganda for the enunciation of trades from the working classes against Capitalists, masters and the Government. Mr. Sexton is well-acquainted with the inner workings of trade councils but he will need to incorporate this knowledge and its use into better matter than is contained in this little piece. It lacks entertainment, and it is not very lucid. What we gathered from it was that, unless the masters sacrificed something or other and the Government did something else, the transport workers officials would hold up the whole transport service in certain areas, uninfluenced by patriotic considerations, or by the policy of waiting until the war is over. To create a kind of dramatic haze over it all, the convenient German spy is introduced and we are asked to believe that a level-headed Labour official is moving to arrange this transport disturbance, unconsciously under the evil machinations of this German intriguer, acting on behalf of his Government. One cannot but think that Graham the Labour official, would be hand and glove with the spy in such a serious scheme without knowing anything at all about him, and yet admit him to a full knowledge of the Federation's working. In the end the spy is suddenly interrupted in some violent telephoning to someone or other in wild alarms over the critical failure of something not very apparent, and all is over with that enterprising youth. Graham may well chide himself that he has allowed himself to be deluded by the fellow, apparently overlooking that his own astuteness has not been too obvious. Mr. Gerald Kennedy as the mouthpiece of Labour grievances gave ringing utterances to these'. (The Stage - Thursday 23 March 1916)