Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

A singularly light-hearted satirical sketch of the social and political chaos resulting from such a revolution as that of the Russia of today. A General and a Lieutenant, formerly adherents of the lost cause of the Panjandrum of Beotia, have been pressed into the service of one of the provisional governments of the moment. While they are discussing with gloomy cynicism their new Bolshevik masters news comes that Anna Janska, favourite daughter of the exiled Panjandrum, has eloped with a young revolutionary Officer. Their plans for the prevention of a matrimonial disgrace are upset by the sudden appearance of the wild princess herself whom they have to receive as a revolutionary ‘comrade’ and to threaten with punishment for her supposed offence. After her bantering taunts however she explains that she herself is the officer with whom she is supposed to have run away, and shows herself in the uniform of the Panjandrum hussars, as the one man who ‘can rouse the army to enthusiasm’. Her announcement of the meaning of her reckless trick is hailed by the time-serving officers with the cry of ‘the revolution is saved’ and the curtain falls. The sketch is quite entertaining its cynical way, though whether it is just now desirable to get entertainment of such a fable is perhaps open to doubt. It is therefore only with hesitation that the piece is recommended for license. Ernest A. Bendall.

Researcher's Summary:

No author was given when the play was first produced but critics soon identified it as the work of G. B. Shaw.

Licensed On: 3 Jan 1918

License Number: 1330

British Library Reference: LCP1918/1

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66183 G


21 Jan 1918 Coliseum, LondonProfessional Licensed Performance
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Performed for 12 performances here by Miss Lillah McCarthy. A review in the Globe on 22 January 1918 commented: 'There is Shavian touch about the new playlet Annajanska, the Wild Grand Duchess, which was produced by Miss Lillah McCarthy at the Coliseum last night. It is from the Russian of Gregory Biessipoff, and the subject is the Revolution. Besides the striking figure of the Duchess (Miss McCarthy) as she throws off a heavy cloak and emerges in the snow-white uniform of the Imperial Hussars as the young officer who will rouse and save the nation, there is the old General, ably played by Mr. Randle Ayrton, whose-devotion to his Panjandrum is only equalled by his contempt for and anger with those who have the making and re-making of men in the troublous times of today. The sketch was well received by last night’s audience. This week’s programme also includes Miss Vesta Tilley in a new song scene, “London in France,” and Neil Kenyon with some excellent studies of Scottish humour’. Other acts on the same bill were: ‘Miss Vesta Tilley in a new song scena, “London in France”’; Neil Kenyon with some excellent studies of Scottish humour’; ‘Mr. Mark Hambourg; a circus item; and a touch of ballet from Lydia Kyasht’ (mentioned in The Globe of 22 January 1918 and The Graphic of 26 January 1918, both below).
14 Dec 1920 Lauriston Halls, EdinburghAmateur
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Presented by the Edinburgh University Dramatic Society with Miss Lorrain Smith in the title role.
27 Jun 1930 Grafton Theatre, LondonProfessional
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Performed for at least one month here. ‘A G.B.S. TRIFLE. Mr. G. B. Shaw … needs no little theatre to encourage him, and his Annajanska seemed rather a poor Joke, and was played much too slowly' (Daily Herald, 28 June 1930). The Era noted: 'Mr. Shaw’s 'Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress', is certainly not highbrow. It is a little piece that was written for Miss Lillah McCarthy to play the Coliseum, and it is hardly worth reviving at this stage in the famous author’s career; nor was well acted, although Miss Mirian Elliott was vigorously intense as the Grand Duchess' (Era, 2 July 1930). Performed on the same bill were: 'Fledglings', a play in one act by Ferenc Molnar; a burlesque entitled 'Pages from the Magazines: Her Honour in the Toils of Love Pardons All: A Glimpse of Life in 2 Throbs'; dances by Margaret Morris; music-hall songs of 1860; ultra-modern songs of 1930; comic songs of pre-War Germany; 'Patterns', a poem by Amy Lowell; 'The Bright Young People'; 'Les Vedettes'; 'The Old Firm’s Awakening' by A. J. Talbot. (Sources: The Era, 25 and 2 July 1930, The Stage 26 June 1930, The Sketch 23 July 1930).
7 Feb 1931 Lesser Free Trade Hall, ManchesterAmateur
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‘The Burnley Drama Guild are to competitors at the Festival (Northern Area) of the British Drama League, to be held in the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester, on Saturday next, at 7 pm. The other competitors are the Amateur Players’ Society of Manchester and the Stage Society of Bury … The Burnley Drama Guild will present Mr. Bernard Shaw’s one-act play Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress, and the cast will consist of Miss Shannon Leslie, who takes the name part, Mr. James A. Stephenson, Mr. Clifford Parkinson, Mr. Albert Smith and Mr. Arthur Nightingale. The play is being produced by Mr. Walter G. Boys’ (Burnley News, 4 February 1931). The cast included: Shannon Leslie (actress), James A. Stephenson (actor), Clifford Parkinson (actor), Albert Smith (actor), Arthur Nightingale (actor), Walter G. Boys (director).
5 Mar 1936 Cramond Parish Church Hall, EdinburghAmateur
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Performd by B. W. Barlow, E. Reid, and M. P. McEwan. 'Plays by Barrie and Shaw, with their widely different techniques, were presented last night by Davidson’s Mains W.R. I. Dramatic Club in Cramond Parish Church Hall. For the main piece they chose 'Quality Street', J. M. Barrie’s play of the Napoleonic period … 'Quality Street' was preceded by 'Annajanska', Bernard Shaw’s play, which treats of an Empress of Beotia who turned Bolshevik. B. W. Barlow gave a capable performance as the Empress and E. Reid and M. P. McEwan were the two officers’ (Scotsman, 6 March 1936)
10 Jan 1939 Torch Theatre, LondonProfessional
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Performed until at least 20 January 1939. Cast and creatives were: Elspeth March (Annajanska), W. E. Holloway (General Strammfest), Reginald Cornish (Schneidekind) and Stuart Gray (first soldier); also Stewart Granger (producer) and G. R. Schjelderup (designer). Also performed were 'Village Wooing' and 'The Dark Lady of the Sonnets', both by Bernard Shaw. '... about the incredible Annajanska the Bolshevik Empress, I have nothing to say. I can only assume that Mr. Shaw wrote it with his left hand while he was shaving with his right’. (Era, 12 January 1939)
1 Feb 1950 ?, WickAmateur
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‘Announcing the winner over the two nights of Caithness preliminary drama festival at Wick, adjudicator Mr Rex Walters expressed regret that only one team could go forward to the divisional final at Inverness. They are Thurso Players B Team, with G. Bernard Shaw’s 'Annajaska, the Bolshevik Empress'. Only one mark separated them from runners-up, John o’ Groats Dramatic Club, who played Agnes Adams’ 'The Whistle'. So close was the marking of the two teams, the adjudicator suspended judgment till the second night' (Sunday Post, 12 February 1950)
15 Mar 1950 Empire Theatre, InvernessAmateur
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The Thurso Players ‘B’ Team performed at the Empire Theatre, Inverness in the Divisional Final Festival, Highland Division, Scottish Community Drama Association (see Stornoway Gazette and West Coast Advertiser, 3 March 1950)
20 Jun 1951 Arts Theatre, LondonProfessional
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Performed as part of a festival of eighteen short plays by Shaw running for three months from 25 April. Performed alongside 'Augustus Does His Bit', 'Village Wooing', 'The Glimpse of Reality' and 'Overruled'. Cast: Rachel Gurney (Annajanska), David Bird (General Strammfest), Gerald Harper (Schneidekind) and not named (first soldier); also John Fernald (producer) and Fanny Taylor (designer). 'Annajanska. the Bolshevik Empress, is an example of Shaw’s infatuation with paradox. It is politically unimportant and dramatically ineffective. Some of the dialogue is really dreadful’ (West London Observer, 29 June 1951)
14 Apr 1997 Wimbledon Studio, Wimbledon, LondonUnknown
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Performed through to early May 1997.