Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

Possibly the reverend author means well, but his play is a dubious affair. In the Prologue, ‘near Brussels, 1915’, a schoolgirl is left alone in a convent dormitory when the Germans occupy the place; a Prussian officer comes in, and after chasing and struggling with her pulls down the blind and the audience is left to suppose that he rapes her on the 'black out’. The rest of the play is 17 years later, in Trouville, on the anniversary of peace. The girl of the prologue, Beryl, is now a supposed widow with a daughter, who of course is the child of the Prussian. The girl falls in love with a supposed Dutch boy, when his father turns up he proves to be the Prussian officer and is killed by Beryl’s brother David to avenge his sister’s honour. It is a merely clumsy piece of violence and it would be no loss to spin it altogether. In view of precedents this may be difficult, however, since after all it consists merely of a rape and a manslaughter. There is nothing much in the fact that the daughter and the pseudo-Dutch boy are really brother and sister, as they do not know it and nothing happens. But anyhow p.3 of the Prologue must be modified and the chasing and struggling and blind-closing cut. It would be quite enough for the purpose of the play if the Prussian simply appears in the room. Recommended for license. G. S. Street

Licensed On: 2 May 1916

License Number: 226

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British Library Reference: LCP1916/11

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66132 A

Performances

DateTheatreType
8 May 1916 Empire, Camberwell, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
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The play was staged here until around 20 May. The cast was: John Lawson (actor), Lucille Sidney (actress), Adèle Lawson (actress), Charles Vane (actor), Miss Pearson (actress), Mr. Frank Seddon (actor). The remainder of the bill consisted of Brodo and Anitra, vocalists; Millie Gold, the popular male impersonator; and Miss Georgina Berry. 'The Era' (10 May 1916) wrote the following: 'Christianity is undergoing the severest test of its existence. The war has produced a difference of opinion between clergymen upon the subject of loving our enemies as interesting in its variation as the doctors’ treatment of indigestion. One day a prominent Eton divine exhorts the populace not to humiliate Germany - when hundreds of Eton’s own have suffered the horrors of the Hun. A day later another Church celebrity declares that it is our business to exterminate the enemy. Now we have the Rev. A. J. Waldron, a clergyman beloved by his congregation for his broadmindedness, as the author of 'The Wages of Hell', a dramatic playlet anticipating the feeling of the people, particularly of the Jews, towards the vanquished foe 17 years hence. As the hero of a sketch Mr. John Lawson has preached many a sensible sermon from the stage. He has had few more effective to deliver than that which the late Vicar of Brixton has written for him. The German must never be forgiven; the barbarity of his warfare never forgotten. [...] Mr. Lawson rams home the author’s main arguments with splendid emphasis, and relieves the dramatic moments with unexpected touches of light comedy. Miss Lucille Sidney’s portrayal of the mother overwhelmed with lasting shame is perfect, and cleverly contrasted with the character of the schoolgirl in the prologue. The daughter is delightfully played by Miss Adèle Lawson. Mr. Charles Vane handles the unsympathetic rôle of the Boche with commendable skill; the remaining characters of the Nun and a butler being suitably represented by Miss Pearson and Mr. Frank Seddon. In the preceding variety programme Mr. Fred Keeton is a great favourite, particularly in his song “It’s too much trouble”. The Four Collegiate Girls are entertaining, and would be more so with the infusion of newer songs into their act. Les Montez might remember that the Apache Dance has been done - overdone in fact. The vocal and instrumental performance of Master Law, Norman Law, and Miss Constance Jeffries is pleasing throughout. Other favourites billed include the Three Ragged Jesters, Mr. Louis J. Seymour, and Miss Lena Lloyd’.
22 May 1916 Hippodrome, RotherhitheProfessional
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Performed from 22 May to around 28 May alongside 'The Man Who Came Back', Bioscope, &c’; also Lotto, Lilo & Otto; Two Vestas; Arthur Young; and Harry Champion.
5 Jun 1916 Olympia Theatre Shoreditch, ShoreditchUnknown
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Performed between 5 and 11 June. Other acts on the bill included: Daisy James, Daisy Dormer, Geo. Carney and Co. in “The Fool of the Force', Wilson Hallett, Ben Albert, Edie Gray, Bioscope
19 Jun 1916 Empire Theatre, BelfastUnknown
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Performed here between 19 and 24 June 1916. Other acts on the bill include: 'The Knighthood of Posner', the Dugardes, who appeared in a refined musical and dancing act, a feature of which was the singing of a child vocalist; Tew and Lea, a pair of clever comedians; and the Five Wilbers, singers and dancers. The 'Belfast Newsletter' wrote (20 June 1916): ‘There were large and appreciative audiences at the Empire Theatre last evening, and in view of the fact that Mr. John Lawson fills the principal place in the programme this gratifying state of things will probably be maintained during the remainder of the week. Mr. Lawson appears in two sketches, one being a slight, humorous production entitled 'The Knighthood of Posner', and the other - 'The Wages of Hell' - a highly dramatic piece by the Rev. A. J. Waldron, of Brixton. The sketches give Mr. Lawson an opportunity of displaying his wonderful versatility, for the two roles which he assumes afford a striking contrast in characterisation, and require the employment of widely different histrionic methods. In 'The Knighthood of Posner' the bright and exhilarating humour got well over footlights; whilst in the sketch by Mr. Waldron the actor had a part which suited him admirably. His impersonation of Dave Raphael was intensely dramatic, and full of the vim and vitality which seem natural to Mr. Lawson on the stage. Miss Lucy Sidney acted with charm and force as Beryl Raphael, and the other parts were also capably sustained'.
26 Jun 1916 Empire Theatre, DublinProfessional
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‘This week at the Empire Theatre we are promised a return visit of the celebrated actor Mr. John Lawson, who will be well remembered here by his remarkable production entitled, 'Only A Jew'. This week, however, he will be seen in two new productions – 'The Knighthood of Posner' and 'The Wages of Hell'. Mr. John Lawson is certainly a remarkable actor, and has always proved a great favourite at the Dame Street house. His many friends and admirers will, no doubt, be glad to extend him a cordial greeting when he makes his reappearance this (Monday) evening. Supporting Mr. Lawson is a very powerful list of variety artistes. With such an attractive bill it is safe to assume that a liberal amount of patronage will be extended to the Empire this week’. (Dublin Daily Express, 26 June 1916)
17 Jul 1916 Palace, HammersmithProfessional
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'The top of the bill here is occupied by the Harmony Four, a quartette of musicians as clever as they were quaint. Miss Helen Charles, at the piano, received loud applause for her mimicry, and her artistic act was loudly applauded. Our old friend, Jock McKay, was soon on the best of terms with his audience, his side-splitting comedy, and his unique performance, gaining him a hearty reception. Joe O’Gorman, the Irish comedian and dancer, with much amusing patter, was also very successful. Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge have an excellent medium for their comedy and vocal talents in 'A Lucky Mistake'. A clever artiste like Jack Straw should getting some better material than he is at present working. Jas. Bendon, a good comedian, opened the programme; and Haydn Wood and Dorothy Court, in their artistic vocal and instrumental scene, with Miss Marjorie Broughton at the piano, scored a big success. The closing number, Love’s garden of roses,” was an especial favourite. The Rev. A. J. Waldron’s sketch, 'The Wages of Hell', in which Mr. John Lawson played powerfully Dave Raphael, brought the programme to a close. On Monday Cruikshank deputised here for Mr. Vernon Watson, and was particularly entertaining in his “cat” burlesque’. (The Era, 19 July 1916)
31 Jul 1916 Empire Theatre, KilburnProfessional