Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This is a very clever drama, dealing half naturally and half supernaturally, with the vexed question of the possibility of communication between the living and the dead. The actual stage-problem has nothing to do with spiritualism, but is one of domestic melodrama. A wealthy merchant has two nephews, both in his business, and one of them - who is in love with his daughter - his favourite. This latter he is made to believe guilty of theft and falsification of the office-books, the crime having really been committed by the brother. He orders the supposed embezzler out of the house, thus compelling him to give up his sweetheart and to resign his recently received commission in the army. No sooner has the unfortunate young man departed, vowing to return no more until he can clear his character, than the uncle discovers the brother’s fraud, compels him to write a confession of it, and, when left alone, promptly dies of heart-disease, accidentally shutting up the all-important confession in the book which he has been reading. The mystic part of the story follows in the belief which is borne in upon the daughter and later upon the lover that her dead father has a message for them, to be conveyed only in the room in which he died. Their anxiety to search this room for the ‘message’ is shared for a different reason by the guilty man, who alone knows of the ‘confession’ which that message must be. Hence there follows an exciting ‘cat-and-mouse game between the three, which is ingeniously kept up until the all-important document is found - by what may be either chance or the manifestation of supernatural influence. As a skilful if not especially sympathetic treatment of a difficult subject, this psychological puzzle may safely be recommended for license. Ernest A. Bendall.

Licensed On: 16 Aug 1917

License Number: 1104

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British Library Reference: LCP1917/17

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66172 D

Performances

DateTheatreType
23 Aug 1917 Savoy, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
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Performed here until 15 December 1917 by a cast including Sydney Valentine (actor), H.B. Irving (actor), Edward Combermere (actor), E. Holman Clark (actor and producer), Tom Reynolds (actor), Fay Compton (actress), Marion Lorne (actress), Vane Featherston (actress), May Holland (actress). "Lately there has been a good deal of speculation as to the possibility of the dead communicating with the living, and Mr. Hackett is bold enough to dramatise or melodramatise the idea. His boldness may not be to all tastes, especially as it is done with little finesse and still less real psychology, but it proves theatrically effective. ...Mr Irving has, as Stephen Pryde, one of those parts in which he can display his sense of the macabre. It is a pity that Mr. Hackett has not put more into the part, for Stephen is a very inept sort of villian, with some obvious purple patches. Mr. Irving, if he cannot succeed in making him plausible or subtle, does succeed in making him eerie, and his distraught outbursts at the end of the second and third acts are vivid and moving. Mr Sydney Valentine, as the strong-willed but mortally-stricken Richard Bransby, gives a powerful bit of acting in the opening scenes of the play. Miss Fay Compton, who has done much very bright work in revue and comedy, has not yet altogether the measure of drama. She has little crudities of deportment and speech, and her expression of feeling is spasmodic and uncertain. But her work, in the part of Helen, uneven as it is, has the essential quality of acting in it as well as the gift of personality. Mr Edward Combermere is rather a brusque Hugh Pryde. Mr E. Holman Clark is genial and amusing as Dr. Latham, who has most of the good things to say in the somewhat common-place dialogue. It is not the fault of that able actor, Mr Tom Reynolds, that Morton Grant, with his humble aspect and apologetic speeches, is not remotely like the chief of staff of a great City firm. Miss Marion Lorne acts very cleverly indeed as a feather-brained widow; and Miss Vane Featherston, as the fussy Mrs Leavitt, and Miss May Holland as Barker, suitably complete the case. "The Invisible Foe" certainly scored a success with last Thursday's audiences; and Mr. Irving, after the author had been called on the fall of the curtain, had the pleasing task of acknowledging, in a few words of thanks, the abundant applause that Mr. Hackett's spiritist melodramatics had called forth." (Stage, 30 August 1917)
22 Feb 1918 Theatre Royal, LeamingtonProfessional
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Presented by Robert Courtneidge for the week. Cast including Julian Royce and Queenie Gwynne.
25 Feb 1918 New Theatre, CardiffProfessional
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Performed for the week by cast including Julian Royce.
4 Mar 1918 New Theatre, OxfordProfessional
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Presented by Robert Courtneidge, and performed for the week by a cast including Julian Royce (actor) and Queenie Gwynne (actress).
7 Mar 1918 New Theatre, CambridgeProfessional
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Presented by Robert Courtneidge, and performed for the week by a cast including Julian Royce (actor), Queenie Gwynne (actress), John McNally (actor), Walter Gay (actor), J.S. Blythe (actor), Diana North (actress), Ivy Gardener (actress), and Dorothe Brett (actress). Also on the bill was 'The Day After the Wedding'
11 Mar 1918 Theatre Royal, NewcastleProfessional
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Presented by Robert Courtneidge, and performed for the week by a cast including Julian Royce (actor) and Queenie Gwynne (actress).
18 Mar 1918 Opera House, BlackpoolProfessional
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Performed for the week.
25 Mar 1918 Grand Theatre, LeedsProfessional
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Presented by Robert Courtneidge, and performed for the week by a cast including Julian Royce (actor), Queenie Gwynne (actress). No performance on Friday as it was Good Friday.
1 Apr 1918 Theatre Royal, ManchesterProfessional
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Presented by Robert Courtneidge, and performed for the week by a cast including Julian Royce (actor) and Diana North (actress). "'The Invisible Foe' attracted a big audience last night, but the play itself lacks the dramatic grip necessary for success. [The actors] struggle hard and successfully, but the end is too obvious to give the talented company full scope for their abilities" (Manchester Evening News, 2 April 1918)
8 Apr 1918 Lyceum Theatre, SheffieldProfessional
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Performed for the week by Julian Royce (actor) and Queenie Gwynne (actress).
24 Aug 1918 King's Theatre, Melbourne, AustraliaProfessional
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Performed from 24 August to 13 September 1918 by a cast including Emelie Polini (actress), Harmon Lee (actor), Maurice Dudley (actor), Cyril Mackay (actor), Clive Farnum (actor), Gerald Kay Souper (actor), Olive Wilton (actress), and Georgia Harvey (actress). "Whatever the value of the motive for the play, the contest is at least fought out in scenes of restrained power; and in these scenes Miss Polini, as Helen, and Mr Cyril Mackay, as Stephen, find opportunity. Miss Polini grasps it. ...Her study of the girl Helen is tender, finely human, and falls naturally to the character of her playing. ...The worst weakness of the play is its comedy, which seems to have been stuck in through a cynical estimate of the taste of an average audience. ...The audience on Saturday evening was appreciative of the performance." (The Age, 26 August 1918)
21 Sep 1918 Palace Theatre, Sydney AustraliaProfessional
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Performed from 21 September to 10 October by a cast including Emelie Polini (actress), Harmon Lee (actor), Maurice Dudley (actor), Cyril Mackay (actor), John Fernside (actor), Gerald Kay Souper (actor), Olive Wilton (actress), Georgia Harvey (actress), Una Jan (actress).
19 Dec 1918 Apollo Theatre, Atlantic City USAProfessional
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Performed for one night on 19 December 1918. "Thomas Dixon's production of Walter Hackett's play, 'The Invisible Foe', was made at the Apollo Theatre, Atlantic City, last night. The reports on it are favorable." (Evening World, 20 December 1918)
30 Dec 1918 Harris Theatre, New York, USAProfessional
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Performed here from 30 December 1918 to 5 April 1919 by Percy Marmont (actor), J.H. Gilmour (actor), Flora MacDonald (actress), Robert Barratt (actor), Marion Rogers (actress), H. Cooper Cliffe (actor), Frank Andrews (actor), Mabel Archdall (actress), Daisy Vivian (actress). "'The Invisible Foe' presented at the Harris Theater in Manhattan last night is a well-constructed melodrama of the school popular during the early nineties, brought up to date by some little mention of the war." (31 December 1918) "Spiritualists in England and America are watching with keen interest the extraordinary and unique demonstration of spiritualistic influences which are said to have been responsible for the success of the play, "The Invisible Foe", now playing at the Harris Theatre here. Hereward Carrington, a well-known America psychic research authority, is among those who maintain that "The Invisible Foe" is being supported by the spirits. The play, which has also been produced in London, concerns information transmitted by the spirit of a dead man for the unravelling of a crime committed before his death. He alone has the key. When the play reached New York practically every theatrical dramatic critic condemned it in unmeasured terms. The critics were almost a unit in declaring that the play was uninteresting, crudely constructed, and wholly improbable. They said further, that the playwright has used ancient and melodramatic incidents and was "talking through his hat". Ordinarily, this should have put a damper on the production. But such was not the case. In spite of the critics the play picked up steadily and quickly became one of the greatest successes of the year. Spiritualists in explaining this, said that the throngs were drawn to the theater by the spirits of departed relatives and friends. One of the odd features in connection with the play's successful run was the patronage bestowed by returning soldiers and sailors. Along Broadway it is a generally recognized fact that this is practically he only play that the fighting men are paying money to see. When the subject was mentioned to Bartley Cushing, the famous American producer who staged "The Invisible Foe", he declared that there was no doubt in his mind as to the influences hovering over the play. Even while the play was in rehearsal, he said, the spiritualistic power was in operation. "I am as hard-headed and as practical as the average person concerned with producing plays" said Cushing, "and I certainly had no interest in spiritualism before putting on "The Invisible Foe'. But I have changed my views. I positively affirm that spiritualistic assistance was given us in making the play ready for the public. I repeatedly felt strange influence guiding me and directing me in my efforts to secure certain novel effects. Even the actors felt these influences. I cannot explain it, but I think everybody connected with the play felt that extramundane influences were hovering over the Harris Theater. Miss Flora MacDonald, who in the play, receives the message from the spirit which gives the clue to the real criminal, has become so converted that she has received a message from her father who died last year. As for myself, I am beginning a complete study of spiritualism." (Saturday News, 20 March 1919)
7 Apr 1919 Standard Theatre, New York, USAProfessional
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Performed from 7-12 April 1919 with cast including Jane Gray (actress).
14 Apr 1919 Montauk Theatre, New York, USAProfessional
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Performed from 14 April to 19 April 1919 by a cast including Frank Andrews (actor), Flora MacDonald (actress), Robert Barrat (actor), Carle Anthony (actor), Marion Rogers (actress), Bernard Craney (actor), Daisy Vivian (actress), Robert Stevens (actor), Mabel Archdall (actress).
4 Jul 1929 Theatre Royal, NottinghamProfessional
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Performed from 4-6 July 1929 by cast including Henry Baynton.
4 Sep 1929 Lyceum Theatre, EdinburghProfessional
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Performed from 4-5 September 1929 by cast including Henry Baynton (actor), Douglas Rubery (actor), May King (actress), Gertrude Gilbert (actress). "By the aid of judicious lighting and other means, the right atmosphere was created last night. ...Miss King, in the part of Bransby's daughter, acted at times with a great deal of feeling, but one felt that she was never quite herself because of something conventional in her way of delivering a speech. A bright study of the part of Mrs Hilary was given by Miss Gertrude Gilbert." (Scotsman, 5 September 1929)
13 Jan 1930 Grand Theatre, OldhamProfessional
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Performed from 13-18 January 1930 by cast including Henry Baynton (actor), Gertrude Gilbert (actress), Douglas Rubery (actor), David Champion (actor), Olga Anderson (actress).
20 Jan 1930 Opera House, BlackpoolProfessional
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Performed 20-25 January 1930.
27 Jan 1930 Empire Theatre, PrestonProfessional
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Performed from 27-30 January and 1 February by Henry Baynton (actor), Olga Anderson (actress) alongside 'Waterloo' by Arthur Conan Doyle.
3 Feb 1930 Q, Kew Bridge, LondonProfessional
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Performed on 3 February 1930.
17 Feb 1930 Theatre Royal, BathProfessional
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Performed 17-20 February and on 22 February by Henry Baynton (actor), Olga Anderson (actress), Gertrude Gilbert (actress), alongside 'Waterloo' by Arthur Conan Doyle. "'Can the dead speak to the living?' is a question puzzling many thousands of people, and dealing with it the author has produced a thrilling and intensely human play, which is certain to arouse great interest." (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 15 February 1930)
11 Apr 1930 Prince of Wales Theatre, RugbyProfessional
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Performed for one night by Henry Baynton (actor), alongside 'Waterloo' by Arthur Conan Doyle.
14 Apr 1930 Lyceum Theatre, NewportProfessional
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Performed for one night by Henry Baynton (actor), alongside 'Waterloo' by Arthur Conan Doyle.