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 sympathetic 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 VC 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: 21 Nov 1916

License Number: 587

Author(s):

Genre(s):

British Library Reference: LCP1916/28

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66149 P

Performances

DateTheatreType
12 Feb 1917 Coliseum, LondonProfessional Licensed Performance
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Performed from 12 February through until 11 March 1917 and described by the Pall Mall Gazette as an 'admirable patriotic playlet' (6 March 1917). Cast included: Mrs Patrick Campbell (Therese), Gladys Ellam (Marie), Mr Claremont (Jean), Henry Dan[?] (Fritz von Kessler), Stephen Wentworth (Pierre), Farmer Skein (General Count von Kessler). The Era commented that 'The piece is spoilt by a certain lack of clarity in its plot and a looseness in its construction' (14 February 1917). However later in the run noted that 'Mrs Patrick Campbell ... continues to stir the audience with her fine acting' (28 February 1917). Performed in the same bill were "The Fourth of August" and variety acts.
12 Mar 1917 Hippodrome, ManchesterProfessional
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Cast led by Mrs Patrick Campbell. Described by the Manchester Evening News (13 March 1917) as 'chiefly notable for the opportunities it gives to Mrs Patrick Campbell to display her distinguished talents'.
26 Mar 1917 King's Theatre, SouthseaProfessional
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Performed by Mrs Patrick Campbell.