Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This is accurately described as a ‘musical melodrama’. It is not a comic or burlesque melodrama, though like other melodramas it has its comic relief, but an ordinary war melodrama with spies and despatches and the rest of it, diversified with songs. The first scene is a village with ‘the lads of the village’ returning after the war, being welcomed by the mayor and the village idiot and so forth. This ought to be last, as the rest of the play recounts their adventures before they returned. After a bioscope scene of recruiting, we see drilling on Salisbury plain and the plot expires. ‘Erb, one of the lads, overhears Sir Carl Spielmeyer make an appointment with a German spy, Drack, disguised as a private. ‘Erb and a pal make their way disguised to the meeting a discover a plot to get despatches from Captain Clements by pressure put on Maud Ellington, whom the captain loves and whom Sir Carol holds in his power, while they are on board ship on the way to Mesopotamia the next scene is on the ship. Maud gives a wrong packet to the spy and the ship sinks a submarine. Then a scene in trenches a la bairnsfather. Then a city in Mesopotamia, where Sir Carl and Drack are disguised as beggars and capture Clements and Maud. They are taken to the Caliph's palace and are going to be tortured to make the Captain decipher the despatches, but the faithful ‘Erb turns up disguised as a magician and of course in the end our men pour in and seize the villains. ‘Erb gets the V. C. We cannot help the war being exploited in nonsensical ways and this is a comparatively inoffensive example. No harm is meant and as far as I can see there is no ‘suggestiveness’ at all. ‘Sir Carl Spielmeyer’ is very near Sir Carl Meyer and should be altered. The songs must be sent. Recommended for license. G. S. Street. Name changed to Karl Swinestein

Researcher's Summary:

All bookings for the tour were handled by a booking agent with the initials I.V.T.A. (possibly International Variety and Theatre Agents). The 'Valentine' who co-wrote the lyrics was Arthur Valentine. This emerges from a court case in 1921: ‘In the Chancery Division Mr Justice Eve, on January 28 [1921], concluded the hearing of an action in which Mr. James Wm. Tate, Mr. Clifford Harris, and Mr. Arthur Valentine sued Mr. Henry J. Thomas a director of music halls and kinematograph companies, and the International Variety and Theatrical Agency, Limited, for an injunction to restrain the defendants from infringing the copyright of the play, “The Lads of the Village,” by performing a kinematograph version. The defendant company was the company purporting to authorise Mr. Thomas to produce the kinema representation. It was stated that Mr. Tate was the composer of the music and Mr. C. Harris and Mr. Valentine were the joint authors of the libretto and the lyrics, and no permission had been given for the film production of the play by the defendants … [Mr. Justice Eve] granted the plaintiffs an injunction and directed an inquiry as to damages’. The Stage, 3 February 1921. Also previous reports in the Western Mail, 25, 26 and 28 January 1921; and the Birmingham Daily Gazette and the Pall Mall Gazette, 26 January 1921. Arthur Valentine's real name was Archibald Thomas Pechey (1876-1961).

Licensed On: 29 May 1917

License Number: 975

British Library Reference: LCP1917/11

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66166 P

Performances

DateTheatreType
4 Jun 1917 King’s Theatre, SouthseaUnknown Licensed Performance
5 Jun 1917 King's Theatre, SouthseaProfessional
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The play had originally been due to be premiered in London, at the Oxford, on 19 May, however, the opening was delayed and it was first seen in Portsmouth where it was performed between 5 and 9 June 1917.
11 Jun 1917 Oxford Theatre, LondonProfessional
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Performed here until around 30 June 1917.
24 Jul 1917 Empire, LiverpoolProfessional
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Performed here until 29 July with Bob Stevens as Erb.
24 Sep 1917 Empire Theatre, New Cross, LondonProfessional
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Performed between 24 and 29 September.
18 Mar 1918 Empire Theatre, SunderlandProfessional
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Performed here until 24 March with Bob Stevens as Erb.
23 Jun 1918 Empire Theatre, PrestonProfessional
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Performed here until 29 June and starring Bob Stevens as Erb.
1 Sep 1918 Grand Theatre, DerbyProfessional
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Performed for the week with Bob Stevens as Erb.
15 Sep 1918 Palace and Hippodrome, BurnleyProfessional
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Performed until 20 September 1918 with Bob Stevens as Erb.
17 Dec 1918 Coliseum, GlasgowProfessional
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Performed here until 22 December 1918 and starring Bob Stevens as Erb.
27 Dec 1918 Empire Palace, EdinburghProfessional
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Performed until 6 January 1919 and starring Bob Stevens as Erb.
6 Jan 1919 Hippodrome, ManchesterProfessional
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A return visit with Bob Stevens, Wilbert Gambel, C. Lawrence Gosling, Emmie King and Frederick Maxwell as the villain.
17 Mar 1919 King's Theatre, SouthseaProfessional
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Performed here between 17 and 22 March 1919.
30 Sep 1919 Empire Theatre, SunderlandProfessional
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Performed until 5 October 1919 with Bob Stevens as Erb.
14 Oct 1919 Empire, HartlepoolProfessional
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Performed here until 19 October and starring Bob Stevens as Erb.
26 Nov 1919 King's Theatre, SouthseaProfessional
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Performed from 26 November to 1 December 1917.
7 Dec 1919 Palace Theatre, TamworthProfessional
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Performed here until 14 December 1919 with Jimmy Learmouth as Erb.
5 Dec 1921 King's Theatre, SouthseaProfessional
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Performed from 5 to 10 December 1921.