Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This is a shrewd and humorous study of cockney character, in the form of a duologue between a humble shop-assistant and a lad home from the trenches. The latter's mission is to deliver to the girl messages and trophies - in the form of shells from the Front, sent by various "boys" to whom she is more or less engaged. Incidentally he proposes taking her out for an evening's entertainment; and the point of the neat sketch lies in the manner of his shy advances and of her far from shy reception of them. As the adjective "bloody" used by the too emphatic damsel on p.2 has already been marked for deletion I assume that it will be omitted; and this should certainly be the case [...]

Researcher's Summary:

The sketch was performed initially on 2 March 1917 as part of a charity matinee in aid of the Royal Free Hospital Appeal for Infant Welfare Work, arranged by Sir George Alexander, and performed in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. The Royal Free Hospital was in Grey’s Inn Road and included a School of Medicine for Women, preparing doctors, with all students of the hospital being women’. The sketch was performed at several charity events in March-July 1917 by Gerald du Maurier and Mabel Russell who were also appearing in Lyons’ play London Pride which is also in the Great War Theatre’s database. The success of the sketch may have inspired the following. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Saturday 7 July 1917, printed a drawing of a dog captioned ‘“A Bit of a Lad”. Drawn by Herbert Dicksee for the Theatrical Garden Party’. Three other drawings were reproduced above the statement: ‘The drawings reproduced on this page are four of “The Limehouse Lounge” posters designed by the popular artists mentioned for the Theatrical Garden Party which will be held next Tuesday [10 July 1917] in the Royal Hospital Gardens, Chelsea. In “The Limehouse Lounge” visitors will be regaled with whelks, shrimps and other delicacies peculiar to a coster banquet, instead of afternoon tea’. The Sphere, 14 July 1917 reproduced the drawings, including ‘A Bit of a Lad’ by Herbert Dicksee, and added: ‘An original departure among the varied attractions at the annual Theatrical Garden Party, which was held on Tuesday in the Royal Hospital Gardens, Chelsea, was the Limehouse Lounge, where visitors, instead of the ordinary afternoon tea with cakes and pastry, were regaled with winkles, shrimps, and other delicacies usually deemed peculiar to the East-end. A number of well-known artists designed sandwich-board posters … to advertise the lounge, and after having been carried through the grounds they were sold for the benefit of the Actors’ Orphanage’.

Licensed On: 15 Feb 1917

License Number: 798

Author(s):

Genre(s):

British Library Reference: LCP1917/4

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66159 H

Performances

DateTheatreType
2 Mar 1917 St. James Theatre, LondonProfessional Licensed Performance
Read Narrative
Performed as part of a charity matinee in aid of the Royal Free Hospital Appeal for Infant Welfare Work, arranged by Sir George Alexander, and performed in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. The Royal Free Hospital was in Grey's Inn Road and included a School of Medicine for Women, preparing doctors, with all students of the hospital being women.
2 Mar 1917 St James's Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘To-day her Majesty the Queen was present at the big matinée at the St. James's Theatre in aid of the Royal Free Hospital appeal for infant welfare work, which has the support of practically every well-known woman in society. This matinée was more interesting than any that had gone before, as Sir George Alexander produced a new play, entitled “Good Gods,” and appeared in the same. Mr. Gerald du Maurier and Miss Mabel Russell also appeared in a new sketch entitled “Bit of a Lad,” by A. Neil Lyons; while Miss Irene Vanbrugh, Mr. Dion Boucicault, Miss Gladys Cooper, and Mr. Charles Hawtrey all took part in the programme’. Pall Mall Gazette, 2 March 1917. ‘Honoured by the presence of the Queen, Princess Mary, and Princess Arthur of Connaught, a matinée arranged by Sir George Alexander in aid of the Royal Free Hospital Appeal for Infant Welfare Work brought a large crown of fashionable folk and lovers of things theatrical to the St James’s Theatre last Friday afternoon. There were five one-act plays on the programme, two of them performed for the first time … “A Bit of a Lad”. Duologue by A. Neil Lyons … was a perfectly delightful little sketch, just a conversation between a high-spirited cockney girl, serving behind the counter in a small shop of all sorts in Paddington, and a boy in khaki, home on leave, one who before the war had written “poems and essays and things,” and has been asked by pals in the B.E.F. to look up Hookey [that is, Hookey Walker, the shop girl] and hand her some souvenirs. The lad is shy and not a little diffident. Pretty, lively Hookey is used to vigorous courtship, and takes the lad’s courtesy as a screaming joke. Each is a type unknown to the other, but they discover mutual attraction, and before setting out for the Corner House and “Three Cheers” (Hookey’s ideal of a tip-top evening) when she lifts her saucy face to his, the lad responds fervently – twice! It is enough to write that Miss Mabel Russell was Hookey and Mr. Gerald du Maurier was the Lad, to know that Mr. Lyons’s sketch – which might be taken from life – was interpreted to perfection’. The Era, 7 March 1917.
16 Mar 1917 New Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘A matinée is to take place at the New Theatre, on Friday, March 16, being St. Patrick's Eve, in aid of the Comforts Funds of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught and the Princess Patricia have promised their patronage. The programme will include … sketches performed by Mr. Charles Hawtrey and Miss Gladys Cooper, and by Mr. Gerald du Maurier and Miss Mabel Russell respectively’. The Sketch, Wednesday 14 March 1917. The sketch performed by Gerald du Maurier and Mabel Russell is likely to have been A Bit of a Lad which they were performing at other charity events in March-July 1917.
20 Mar 1917 Haymarket Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘On my return from Chelsea [apparently the previous day] I looked in at the Haymarket [where] a special matinee was being given for the “War Hospital Supply” (Barnet depot). Here also was a full house, and a delightful programme, which included H. B. Irving and Co. in “Waterloo,” Sir George Alexander and Co. in “Good Gods,” and clever Mabel Russell and Gerald du Maurier in “A Bit of a Lad”’. Pall Mall Gazette, Wednesday 21 March 1917.
22 Apr 1917 Savoy Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘Mr. H. B. Irving invites sailors and soldiers (in uniform only) on Sunday evening, April 22nd, to a performance at the Savoy Theatre at 7.30. Seats will be allotted in order of arrival, and all seats will be free. The programme will consist of “A Bit of a Lad,” performed by Miss Mabel Russell and Mr. Gerald du Maurier; “The Bells,” with Mr. H. B. Irving as Mathias; and “The Division of Labour,” with Miss Mabel Russell, Mr. C. V. France, Mr. Gerald du Maurier, and Mr. A. E. George in the cast’. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 14 April 1917. ‘Many of the soldiers who were in London last Sunday enjoyed a most interesting evening at the Savoy. Mr. H. B. Irving, who had the assistance of Mr. Gerald du Maurier and other loyal comrades, opened his doors to soldiers and sailors in uniform. The pity was that the Savoy was not Drury Lane for the nonce. The invited audience began to assemble some hours before the advertised time, and at half-past six, when the doors should only just have been opened, “according to plan,” the theatre was filled. And what an audience it was that occupied the ground floor and the three tiers! Not a civilian to be seen, only row upon row of men, many of them wounded, in khaki. So quiet, so intent, and when the moments came for applause as enthusiastic a gathering as any actor could desire. The official entertainment was not to begin until seven o’clock, but in response to an appeal from the stage several of the guests wended their way behind the footlights, and with song and recitation gave pleasure to their comrades. The pièce de résistance of Mr. Irving’s programme was “The Bells” [which] was preceded by Mr. Gerald du Maurier and Miss Mabel Russell in “A Bit of a Lad,” and followed by the same artists in “The Division of Labour”’. The Stage, 26 April 1917.
18 May 1917 New Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘On behalf of the West London Training Ship, Stork, which is moored in the Thames, off The Mall, at Hammersmith, a successful special matinee was held on Friday afternoon [presumably 18 May 1917] at the New Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane, W.C. … The Stork has been lent by the Admiralty to the Kensington Branch of the Navy League for the purpose of training working lads for the sea … The matinee was largely attended, the audience including a number of wounded soldiers. Some well-known artistes gave their services … The piece “A Bit of a Lad,” by Mr. A. Neil Lyons, was admirably acted by Miss Mabel Russell, who took the part of “Hookey Walker,” and Mr. Gerald du Maurier who represented “The Lad.”’ West London Observer, Friday 25 May 1917.
25 May 1917 His Majesty's Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘A delightful variation on the ordinary charity entertainment was arranged at His Majesty’s last Friday afternoon [presumably 25 May 1917] by the Women’s League of Service at their “Motherhood” matinee, and it was obviously appreciated by a crowded audience which included Queen Alexandra. A series of turns … was shaped into a rehearsal of a revue … Other helpers on the stage were Mr. Gerald du Maurier and Miss Mabel Russell in “A Bit of a Lad,” and members of the cast at His Majesty’s in scene from “Chu Chin Chow.”’. Illustrated London News, Saturday 26 May 1917.
29 May 1917 [No Theatre Listed], Professional
Read Narrative
‘Princess Mary yesterday honoured the Royal Overseas Officers’ Club by her presence at one of those pleasant afternoon functions of which the club is making a special feature. Tea on this occasion was taken in the concert hall, and a brief but very attractive entertainment was given, of which the principal item was a soldier sketch, in which Miss Mabel Russell and Mr. Gerald du Maurier took part’. Pall Mall Gazette, 30 May 1917. ‘Princess Mary honoured with her presence the entertainment given in the Royal Overseas Officers’ Club, Pall Mall, on Tuesday of last week. Miss Mabel Russell and Mr. Gerald Maurier appeared in a clever little sketch’. The Era, 6 June 1917. The sketch performed by Gerald du Maurier and Mabel Russell is likely to have been A Bit of a Lad which they were performing at other charity events in March-July 1917.
12 Jul 1917 New Theatre, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘A most enjoyable afternoon was provided on Thursday [12 July 1917] at the New Theatre, in aid of hostels for limbless sailors and soldiers by the Eccentric Club … It was announced that the matinée would produce no less than £1,000 - the fund has in all raised some £10,000 … In “A Bit of a Lad” the toffish private and the frank, well-meaning shopgirl were delightfully impersonated by Mr. Gerald du Maurier and Miss Mabel Russell’. The Era, 18 July 1917. ‘To the considerable fund that the Eccentric Club is accumulating for its hostels for soldiers and sailors who have lost limbs in the war another £1,000 or so was added by means of the matinée given at ]the New Theatre] on Friday. An attractive programme drew together a large audience, undeterred by guinea stalls and half-guinea circle seats … A. Neil Lyons’s “A Bit of a Lad,” [was] once more most happily played by Mr. Gerald du Maurier as the lad and Miss Mabel as the cockney girl’. The Stage, 19 July 1917.