Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

A war-play of a very fresh and original stamp, which, if adequately handled on the stage, should make a very pleasant mark. It tells the story of a bet made somewhere in France, by Private Gallagher of the King's Own Fusiliers, with Private Dempsey of the same Regiment, that, on the strength of their extraordinary personal resemblance, he could make Mrs Dempsey accept him as her husband if he turned up in her cabin in County Cork. The opportunity presents itself for settling the wager, which Gallagher, as an Irish-American with some experience on the stage, is confident of winning, to the satisfaction of Private Albert 'Orkins, who is to be referee. The three of them all get leave and go together to Cork, where most of the action takes place. The point of the play lies in the doubts of poor Julyann Dempsey as to the identity of the man who presents himself to her as her husband, suffering, as his friend 'Orkins avows, from shell-shock. These doubts, conflicting as they do with the ready belief of neighbours and even with the advice of the worthy Parish Priest, are elaborated with many delightful touches of natural Irish humour and unforced sentiment. The situation, too, is ingeniously complicated by the eventual recognition of the genial imposter by a girl - a cousin of Dempsey's - who knew him in New York and thus helps to make him lose his bet. The pathetic character of Julyann, forced by circumstances to struggle against her inner convictions, is finely studied throughout: and the study is kept wholly free for the disagreeable developments which to a coarser playwright might have suggested themselves. Recommended for Licence, Ernest A. Bendall

Researcher's Summary:

The licensed script listed the author as Mrs Everard Cotes who was the author and journalist Sara Jeanette Duncan.

Licensed On: 17 Jul 1917

License Number: 1060


British Library Reference: LCP1917/15

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66170 K


24 Jul 1917 Globe Theatre, LondonProfessional Licensed Performance
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A matinee performance given in aid of the Irish Prisoners of War fund and to aid Irish regiments, under the auspices of the Irish Women's Association. Lady MacDonnell, president of the association was in charge of the programme sellers who included the Honourable Anne MacDonnell, her daughter; Lady Margaret Forbes, Miss K. MacDonnell, and Miss Grenvill. This was reported as the first play from Duncan to be presented in London and the Illustrated London News commented that ' It looks as if Mrs. Everard Cotes has a vocation for playwriting’ (4 August 1917). The Daily Mirror reported that 'First you laughed, then you cried, and then you clapped wildly, for the human play is a charming one. And this despite the fact that every woman in the theatre was incredulous: how could any woman mistake another man for her husband?’ (26 July 1917). The Era reported that this incident was based on a real story which took place in Manchester (1 August 1917) In the cast were The cast was: Philip Anthony; George Elton; Frank E. Petley; C. Barnard Moore; Moya Mannering; Hilda Harris; Alice Phillips; J. D. Beveridge; and Jerome Murphy. It was produced by Mr W. G. Fay. The Irish Guards were present and played Irish airs.
4 Mar 1918 Devonshire Park Theatre, EastbourneProfessional
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Performed 4-6 March 1918 by Mr Alfred Butt's company, as the start of a short provincial tour which was intended to precede a London production (which never appears to have taken place). The cast included: he cast was Pte. J. Gallager and Pte. D. Dempsey, H. V. Esmond (as both Pte Gallagher and Dempsey n.b. in the 1917 production different actors had played these parts); Frank Fort; Robert Dalsell; J. R. Cassidy; Patrick Traynor; Basil Lofting; Frank Cavannagh; Paddy Dupres; George McCloskie; Hilda Harris; Florence Helm; Joan Pereira; and Moya Mannering.
7 Mar 1918 Gaiety Theatre, HastingsProfessional
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Performed by Moya Mannering (actress), H. V. Esmond (actor).
25 Mar 1918 Court Theatre, LiverpoolProfessional
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Performed 25-30 March 1918 by cast including Moya Mannering and H. V. Esmond. It was described by the Liverpool Echo as 'is a light-hearted sample of war economy, for the author. Sara Jeanette Duncan, has attempted to make a little go a long way, with the result that her material is spread thin in places, and is somewhat lacking in those durable qualities which promise a long and lucrative existence.' (26 March 1918)
1 Apr 1918 Theatre Royal, NottinghamProfessional
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Performed 1-6 April by Moya Mannering, H. V. Esmond, Mr. Frank Fort, Hilda Harris, Florence Helm. The Nottingham Journal commented that ‘if to call the new play a war play is to frighten the theatregoing public, therein lies sufficient excuse for the misdescription of Julyann, an Irish comedy in four acts, which was presented at Nottingham Theatre Royal yesterday afternoon and evening. After all, the war is best seen through the glasses of Bairnsfather, and though it is through this medium that Sara Jeanette Duncan, the authoress of Julyann, has looked on the humorous triangular problem of Private and Mrs. Dempsey and Private Gallagher, it would probably have been damaging to her creation to label it a war play, which in reality it is' (2 April 1918)
8 Apr 1918 Lyceum Theatre, EdinburghProfessional
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Performed 8-13 April by H. V. Esmond, Moya Mannering, Frank Fort, Florence Helm, Hilda Harris, Mr Dupres, George M’Closkie. The Scotsman commented that 'the development of the theme in Julyann’s cabin is convincing as well as amusing. Its vivacious interpretation of character and temperament places the comedy on a high level of dramatic art' (9 April 1918)
15 Apr 1918 Prince's Theatre, ManchesterProfessional
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Performed 15-20 April by cast including H. V. Esmond, and Moya Mannering. This was intended to be the last performance on the provincial tour before the play transferred to London but there is no evidence that the London production took place.