Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This play, defined by its author as a ‘film without a flicker’, sets forth in appropriately cinematographic fashion a simple story of to-day. it is that of the enlistment and military career of Tunks, a cheery young costermonger, who on his departure for the Front, bequeaths to his sweetheart, cherry (an employee in a pickle factory) his share of his donkey and his barrow business a year afterwards he gets seven days’ leave, which he is particularly anxious to take that he may get back to the east end and find out what has become of cherry, who, he hears, has disappeared together with the donkey and the business, in consequence of their eviction by a harsh landlord. His leave is suddenly stopped for a forward movement; he volunteers for a bombing party, behaves with much gallantry, and then in a mad moment takes his leave by practically deserting, after exchanging his disc for that of a dead chum. On his homeward voyage he gets stunned by a bomb from an aeroplane, and we next meet him in an English hospital under his assumed name, and with an assumed loss of memory, from which he promptly recovers on finding that he is stealing not only his dead chum’s name but his D.C.M. Though his sympatric sergeant major he confesses his fraud, which that worthy helps to hush up, partly for the honour of the regiment, and partly because Tunks himself has been awarded a V. C. for his own bravery in the trenches. I am not sure whether from a military point of view there is any objecting to this glorification of a gallant fellow, guilty, from an innocent motive, of a serious breach of technical discipline. I think not, myself, especially as the whole tone of the play is manly and patriotic, alike in cockney sentiment and cockney humour. These latter are graphically illustrated in the opening scenes of coster life, and later in the sketches of Tommies in the field, in the French canteen, in the convalescent ward of a country-house hospital run by kindly, if affected, ladies and finally in a complementary function presided over by an illiterate mayor. Recommended for license. Ernest A. Bendall.

Licensed On: 10 Nov 1916

License Number: 571

British Library Reference: LCP1916/27

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66148 T


1 Dec 1916 Wyndham's Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
13 Aug 1917 Pleasure Gardens Theatre, FolkestoneProfessional
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Ran for the first three days of the week. One writer has described the play as 'the best war play yet produced'. It is described as 'Admirably constructed, with plenty of humour to relieve the pathos, it holds the interest from start to finish'. Ellis Holland was Cuthbert Tunks and Daisy Dormer was Cherry Walters.
16 Aug 1917 Gaiety Theatre, HastingsProfessional
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Performed during the latter half of the week. Described as 'True to life from beginning to end, with the greatest attention to detail, there were both tears and riotous laughter in this piece which is so full of humanity and character'.
18 Jan 1918 Theatre Royal, BournemouthProfessional
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'A war play without the horrors of war', the play ran for a week. It was considered a 'great success' at Wyndham's. Ellis Holland plays Cuthbert Tunks, VC and Laura Lydia plays Cherry Walters. Tom Brown directed the orchestra. The co-authors (Gladys Unger and Neil Lyons) are deemed to have 'touched the public pulse exactly'.
16 Mar 1918 Grand Theatre, HullProfessional
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Performed as a matinee and evening performance.