Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

[...] The question of the dramatic tract’s desirability might with advantage be referred to some competent eastern authority [...] apart from this consideration the religious, and indeed devout play is recommended for license, Ernest A. Bendall

Researcher's Summary:

'Sacrifice, and Other Plays' was published by Macmillan in October 1917. A review in the 'Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer' on 19 December 1917 provides a summary of the plot: 'The title piece is a really noble drama on the world-old theme of the struggle between progressiveness and conservatism in religion. A king denies that the goddess Kali demands sacrifices that require the shedding of blood, and forbids them. His Queen wants to offer such sacrifices because she wants Kali to give her a child. The priest of Kali is horror-struck at the King’s profanity. Out of that simple motif the poet gives us a drama tense and thrilling, ending in the self-immolation of the priest’s favourite pupil, and the loss of faith on the part of the priest himself in the goddess he has served too well. It would be interesting to see how the play would go the stage. Some of our amateur dramatic societies have opportunity here ready to their hand to render a real service to lovers of literature'. Other reviewers of the published play were unsure about its suitability for the stage. In The Globe on 1 November 1917, one reviewer wrote, 'Sir Rabindranath Tagore's “Sacrifice” ... consists of that and three other plays by the Hindoo philosopher, which are, of course, written for the study rather than the stage’. In the Liverpool Daily Post, on 26 December 1917, another reviewer commented that: 'One’s impression is that these plays would not act well in translation, and if that is so they fail as plays, though not as poetry. But one would welcome the opportunity of seeing them put to the test’. When 'Sacrifice' was performed, the 'Central Somerset Gazette' was clear about its relevance to the contemporary situation in Europe: ''The play “Sacrifice,” was especially dedicated by Sir Rabindranath Tagore “to those heroes who bravely stood for peace when human sacrifice was claimed by the goddess of war.” This obviously requires no enlargement, as all will inevitably recognise in the Goddess Kali the present dread war-monster whom we name Armageddon, insatiable in her lust and cruelty, ever demanding sacrifice and fresh sacrifice day by day, until she is cast down by one stronger than herself, and the futility and the wickedness of world destruction is shown to those peoples and nations who have worshipped in her temple ... Though the play is finished, and the curtain down, [Jaising's] glorious act of self sacrifice shines out as a symbol and allegory of noble deals daily enacted out there where, instead of the stony image of Kali the Goddess, the iron clad cannons roar, and the shrieking shells fling forth death and destruction '(20 September 1918). Performances of the play were often seen as a conscious attempt to improve understanding between British people and the inhabitants of its empire in India and were staged by The Union of East and West (King George’s Hall, London, 9 February 1918; Prince of Wales Theatre, London, 4 May 1920) and the East and West Drama Society (The Irving, London, 14 May 1952). ‘Kedar Nath Das Gupta, a Bengali and friend of Rabindranath Tagore, was involved in forming the Union of East and West in January 1914. This was a society for the British and Indians in London which put on dramatic performances (having subsumed the Indian Art and Dramatic Society, formed in 1912). Das Gupta ... hoped that through the Society he could promote better understanding and collaboration between India and the West’ (

Licensed On: 1 Feb 1918

License Number: 1376



British Library Reference: LCP1918/3

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66185 B


9 Feb 1918 King George’s Hall, Tottenham Court Road, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
9 Feb 1918 King George’s Hall, Tottenham Court Road, LondonUnknown
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The Era, 13 February 1918, reviewed 'Sacrifice,' a play in seven episodes by Rabindranath Tagore, produced at the King George’s Hall. Y.M.C.A., London, on Saturday 9 February 1918. The cast was: Gunavati … Barbara Everest Raghupati … Norman V Norman Jaising … Edyth Goodall Aparna … Hazel Jones Nakshatra … Eric Ross Chandpal … W. P. Pearce Nayan Rai … Loftus Hare Queen’s attendant … Eleanor Street Druva … Eric Deacon. '‘“Sacrifice” was produced under the auspices of the Union of the East and West. The production was doubtless part of the Society’s programme for increasing the interest and sympathy of the people of this country for the inhabitants of our great Indian Empire. The play in itself, however, would appear to be only of indirect value for the purpose. The action resolves itself into a struggle between king Govinda and Raghupati, a Brahmin priest. Govinda is determined to do away with blood sacrifice, Raghupati is equally determined to continue it. Raghupati is, perforce, compelled to respect the authority of the king in material mattes, but defies him in spiritual. The action proceeds vividly and rapidly towards its climax, but, from a purely dramatic point of view, the climax, when reached, is not so powerful as one had been led to expect. The crisis arrive when Jaising, a servant of the temple, torn between his desire not to take the king’s life and the claims of the goddess, as interpreted by the promptings and urgings of Raghupati, declared that he himself has royal blood in his veins, and stabs himself to the heart on the altar steps. Whatever may be the merits of the play, it, at all events, provides scope for fine acting. The opportunity was taken full advantage of by the four players chiefly concerned – Miss Barbara Everest (as the Queen), Mr. Norman V. Norman (as Raghupati), Mr. H. K. Ayliff (as the King), and, in particular, by Miss Edyth Goodall, whose acting ability and power are beyond question’.
11 Sep 1918 Assembly Rooms, GlastonburyAmateur
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The Glastonbury Literary and Dramatic Society ‘gave their first performance of the season on Wednesday afternoon and evening when large and appreciative audiences witnessed the production of a succession of original plays by various well-known authors. In the afternoon was given “Sacrifice,” an Indian play by Rabindranath Tagore, “Paddly Pools’ by Miles Malleson, and John Bostock’s children’s play “The Robin, the Mouse, and the Sausage” … Wednesday afternoon’s programme will be repeated to-night (Thursday) and Saturday afternoon … A full report will appear next week’ (Central Somerset Gazette, Friday 13 September 1918). ‘The Glastonbury Literary and Dramatic Society, which is affiliated to the Glastonbury Festival School (founded August 1914), presented a series of plays commencing on Wednesday afternoon of last week with three distinct performances. The first of these, “Sacrifice” is by an Indian author, Sir Rabindranath Tagore ... A large and representative audience filled the Assembly Rooms, whose appreciation was made in every way manifest by the enthusiastic reception accorded the various plays … To be transplanted from the somewhat prosaic surroundings and modernised atmosphere of the Glastonbury Assembly into the hushed and sacred precincts of an Indian sacrificial temple, to be confronted with the stern and inflexible Brahmin High Priest himself, awe-inspiring in his worship and allegiance to Mother Kali, “the goddess of the endless stream of time,” sitting with uplifted sword on her pedestal, immovable, sphinx-like in her stony silence, to whom numberless victims are sacrificial to appease her lust for blood, which. apparently is never satisfied! This was achieved on Wednesday afternoon of last week, when the curtain rose on the first scene of Rabindranath Tagore’s great Indian (and allegorical) play, “Sacrifice” ... [the plot and the cast's performances are described at length] ... ''The play “Sacrifice,” was especially dedicated by Sir Rabindranath Tagore “to those heroes who bravely stood for peace when human sacrifice was claimed by the goddess of war.” This obviously requires no enlargement, as all will inevitably recognise in the Goddess Kali the present dread war-monster whom we name Armageddon, insatiable in her lust and cruelty. ever demanding sacrifice and fresh sacrifice day by day, until she is cast down by one stronger than herself, and the futility and the wickedness of world destruction is shown to those peoples and nations who have worshipped in her temple ... Though the play is finished, and the curtain down, [Jaising's] glorious act of self sacrifice shines out as a symbol and allegory of noble deals daily enacted out there where, instead of the stony image of Kali the Goddess, the iron clad cannons roar, and the shrieking shells fling forth death and destruction ' (Central Somerset Gazette, Friday 20 September 1918). The Central Somerset Gazette, Friday 27 September 1918, commented further on the production.
4 May 1920 Prince of Wales's Theatre, LondonUnknown
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‘The Union of the East and West gave a special matinée yesterday, at the Prince of Wales Theatre. They had chosen for their programme two plays of Rabindranath Tagore, “Sacrifice” and “Chitra.” It is always a pleasure to listen to Tagore’s work. There is about it a grand simplicity and dignity and an exquisite purity of language. But its very restraint and artistry makes it rather for the study than the stage. In one’s armchair one can visualise the gods walking the earth, the men and women as beautiful as they are poetical, the rich temples and the languorous scented gardens of the East. But on a rather stuffy London afternoon, amid the clatter of matinée teas and the vision of matinée hats, amid the inevitable one-performance hitches, the actors seem very human and twentieth century and conscious of their bare limbs - and the beauty of these plays, which is not something very great or strong, but only very beautiful and fragile, that beauty is lost. “Sacrifice” deals with the failure of the King Govinda to stop the blood sacrifice to the goddess Kali, and the terrible human toll she received. “Chitra,” which is the more interesting of the two, tells of how man needs more from a woman than mere beauty. Miss McGill as “Chitra” gave a very uneven performance. It is a part full both of opportunities and pitfalls’ (Daily Herald, 5 May 1920). ‘Princess Beatrice and the Duchess of Albany were prevented by their recent sad bereavement from being present at the performance of Rabindranath Tagore’s beautiful Indian playlets, “Chitra” and “Sacrifice,” which were produced yesterday afternoon at the Duke of York’s Theatre [sic] by the Union of the East and West. This was a great pity, for the Society has done more good work than any other single organisation in stimulating good feeling and understanding between us and our great Eastern Empire. We owe it no small debt for introducing to us the masterpieces of the East and all the wealth of imagination and poetry which lives among the Indian people. Tagore’s two short masterpieces received sympathetic treatment at the hands of such fine artists as Miriam Lewes, Moyra McGill, Marjorie Gordon, Ion Swinley, Gordon Bailey, George Skillan, and Frederick Sargent; and there was a distinguished audience despite the regretted absence of Royalty. Among those who showed particular interest in the success of the matinees were the Maharani of Cooch Behar, the Princess of Monaco, Lady Carmichael, Lady Foster Fraser, and Lady Muir-Mackenzie’ (Lancashire Evening Post, 5 May 1920). ‘The performances given by the Indian Art and Dramatic Society, under the auspices of the Union of East and West, with Mr. Kedar Nath Das Gupta as zealous hon. organiser, increase in interest arid certainly in artistic achievement as their number grows, and this was shown at the special matinée at the Prince of Wales’s on Tuesday, May 4, when was presented a double bill of plays by Rabindranath Tagore, “Sacrifice” and “Chitra,” both of which have been seen before. It is to be repeated at Oxford on May 11, and other special matinées are being arranged to take place in such centres as Cambridge, Manchester, and Croydon ... Both plays gave great interest to a large audience of Indians, and of those en rapport with the great Eastern Empire’ (The Stage, 6 May 1920).
11 May 1920 ?, OxfordUnknown
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Indian Plays In Oxford. Oxford on Tuesday had the opportunity of witnessing a performance of the Indian poet. Rabindranath Tagore’s two plays, “Chitra” and “Sacrifice,” which have been given such an enthusiastic reception in London … Those who know anything of the poet’s works need not be told that the plays were creations of exquisite beauty and wonderful reality, dramatic and fantastic. The artistes played with such depth of feeling that .one would not wish to mar the beauty and reality of the dramas by making any distinction between them as actors and actresses. Frederic Sargent, as Raghupati, the priest, gave a study that was a masterpiece of histrionic art and raised the whole performance out of the commonplace’. Oxfordshire Weekly News, Wednesday 19 May 1920.
29 Apr 1927 Music Hall, EdinburghUnknown
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The Scotsman, Thursday 28 April 1927, advertised ‘The Indian Dramatic Society presents an Indian Drama, Sacrifice (by Tagore) (In English with Indian Music)’ at the Music Hall, George Street, the next day (Friday) and on Saturday. ‘As Indian-drama, “Sacrifice,” by Rabindranath Tagore, was presented last night in the Music Hall by members of the Indian Dramatic Society. The play, the action of which takes place in the 17th century, tells of the abolition of blood sacrifice to the goddess Kali, the impulse arising from a benevolent king’s realisation of the cruelty involved, and being opposed by the fanatical chief priest. The chief priest’s favourite young disciple, to save the impending assassination of the king, offers himself as a sacrifice, and thus the fanatical armour of the chief priest is penetrated, and the image of the goddess is overthrown. The story was unfolded in a series of. scenes, which were notable for their richness of colour and dressing ... The effect of the dramatisation was heightened by incidental and other music, Indian in character ... There was a large audience, who showed their cordial appreciation of the. performance’ (The Scotsman, 30 April 1927). ‘An artistic event of unusual interest drew many to the Music Hall, Edinburgh, on Friday and Saturday of last week, when, for the first time in Britain, Rabindranath Tagore’s religious drama, “Sacrifice,” was played under the auspices of the newly-formed Indian Dramatic Club, which is to be heartily congratulated on the high standard of acting and production achieved. Onlookers were transported to the East by the gorgeous colouring - especially in the Court scene, with its throne of gold and wealth of Eastern dresses bedecked with jewels; and the designer of costumes and setting showed them to full advantage by the simplicity of her curtained stage, relieved only in the Temple scenes by the golden yellow Hindu temple sheltering the black and gold image of the goddess Kali, around whose cruel rites the story gathers ... The opening musical numbers chosen by Mrs M. N. O. Baily all consisted pieces which gave an Indian impression, and it was finely rendered by Mrs Hunter-Cowan (violin), Miss W. Simpson (piano), Mr Kenyon Letts (baritone), Mr Bernard Beers (clarinet), and Mr R. Howells (drums). One of the solos, set by Mrs Baily for clarinet, with piano accompaniment, was by the poet Tagore himself, and had much charm. The play itself had incidental music specially composed by Mr R. O. Pagan, Doncaster; a march from the King’s entrances and other short pieces, all with a hint of the East in their effects' (St Andrews Citizen, Saturday 7 May 1927).
4 Jul 1931 Mountsfield, RyeAmateur
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‘Missionary Festival At Rye. The old town and church of Rye will make a suitable setting for the annual Diocesan Missionary Festival next Saturday [4 July 1931. An attempt will made to make the subject attractive and truly “live.” The preacher at 11.30 a.m. service at the Parish Church will be the Rev. Canon A. W. Davies, secretary of the Missionary Council of the Church of England. In the afternoon an open-air meeting will be held in the grounds of Mountsfield. under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Chichester, when the Rev. F. C. Arnold will give first-hand evidence of work in the Diocese of Bombay, where he has spent 23 years. A missionary play will be presented at 3.15 by the Lewes Players, under the title, “Sacrifice.” The author of this play is Rabindranath Tagore, and it is arranged by Mr. E. Martin-Browne, director of religious drama for the diocese. It is hoped that large numbers of people from all over East Sussex will assemble for the festival. Tea will be served in the Monastery 4.15, followed by festal evensong 5 o’clock’ (Sussex Agricultural Express, Friday 26 June 1931). ‘A tribute to the Brede Players, whose performance at the recent Mothers’ Union drama won widespread admiration, are [sic] paid by Mr. E. Martin Browne, the director of religious drama for the Diocese of Chichester, in the Diocesan Gazette for August … Mr. Browne also refers to the performance at the Rye Mission Festival of “Sacrifice,” the play by Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian philosopher. “The experiment of producing an important play by an Indian writer in place of a missionary play of the usual type seems to have pleased its audience at Rye,” he remarks. “One is grateful to the Lewes Players for entering with such zest into the preparation of Sacrifice. May not the Church in this way be instrumental in encouraging the growth of literature in her outpost countries, and so of sealing another bond between herself and the non- Christian civilisations? Sir Francis Younghusband, that humblest of great seers, declared last month that ‘the great days of religion are just dawning, and the prospects of religious drama are unimaginably magnificent’”’ (Sussex Agricultural Express, 14 August 1931; also the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 15 August 1931).
17 Jul 1931 Elfinsward, Haywards HeathAmateur
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‘Inclement weather has marred many outdoor functions this summer, and on Friday afternoon [17 July 1931] the heavy rain upset the arrangements for what would have been a pleasant gathering at Haywards Heath. The Lord Bishop of Chichester (the Right Rev. G. K. A. Bell) and Mrs. Bell had invited upwards of four hundred church-people from all parts of the Diocese to Elfinsward, the Diocesan Conference and Retreat House, where a garden party was to have been given by the Lady Warden (Miss Hoskyns) and the House Committee. As it was the function had to held indoors, and the guests were prevented from enjoying the beauty of the lawns and grounds. It was surprising that such a large number attended in view of the weather ... At the conclusion of the address [by the Bishop of Chichester] an Indian play, entitled “Sacrifice,” by Rabindranath Tagore, was cleverly performed by Mr. Martin Browne and the Lewes Players. The moral of the play was that self-sacrifice should replace the sacrifice of human beings and animals. The performers were heartily applauded at the close’. Mid Sussex Times, Tuesday 21 July 1931.
17 Nov 1932 St. Nicholas’ Parochial Hall, KenilworthAmateur
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‘The United Missionary Sale, organised on behalf of the funds the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, was held in St. Nicholas’ Parochial Hull, Kenilworth, yesterday (Thursday) afternoon [17 November 1932] ... The two plays presented in the evening drew an enormous attendance. Chairs were ranged right up to the stage, and the back of the hall crammed with people unable to find seats. The Youth Fellowship presented “Sacrifice,” by Rabindranath Tagore, a play which clearly shows the influence that Christianity had on the famous Hindoo poet. The plot, plainly stated, savours of a modern “thriller,” but Tagore’s treatment reflects none of the hurry and bustle and swift sequence of events found in writers of the modern “thriller” school. Indeed, the conspiracies and villainies that arise in the play are as nothing against the magnitude of the question of religious morality that forms its background. The loveliness of the language and the noble treatment of the moral question make “Sacrifice” a great contribution to religious thought from a so-called heathen. Two players - Miss Saunder, who. took the part of the Queen, and R. Peace, whose part was that of Jaising, the boy priest – showed the greatest feeling for the language. E. F. Swann also gave a distinguished performance. The performers were: - Gunavati (the queen), Miss Saunder; Raghupati (the priest), W. Buswell; Govinda (the king), A. Bourne; Jaising (boy priest), R. Peace; Aparna (beggar girl), Miss Wood; Mayan Rai (general), J. Soden; Nakshatra (king’s brother), E. F. Swann; Chandpal (2nd in command), D. Ward; minister, L. Maxwell; attendant on queen, Miss Barton; attendant on king, L. Wilson; Druva, L. Meadows …’ (Leamington Spa Courier, 18 November 1932). The Coventry Herald, 25 November 1932, published a photograph of the cast.
27 Nov 1937 Working Men's College, Camden, LondonAmateur
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‘Tagore’s “Sacrifice” was performed by the Working Men’s College, Crowndale Road, on Saturday. In a play that lacks impressiveness and at times becomes tedious, there were some clever and promising performances. M. L. Holland showed both grasp and ability in his portrayal as the priest, and Marjorie Smith gave a dignified and restrained impersonation as the Queen. The piece was well mounted’. The Stage, 2 December 1937. [Working Men’s College (WMC), the oldest surviving adult education institute in Europe, was founded in 1854 and was associated with the Cooperative Movement and the Christian Socialists, stemming, from the same tradition that led later to the Worker’s Educational Association. The Working Women’s College, founded 10 years later in 1864, finally merged with WMC in 1967. Early supporters of both have included F D Maurice, John Stuart Mill, Tom Hughes, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, Ford Maddox Brown, Walter de la Mare and Octavia Hill. Originally based in Red Lion Street, we have been in this listed building [44 Crowndale Road] in Camden Town since 1905’ (]
14 May 1952 Irving Theatre, LondonAmateur
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‘On May 14 the East and West Drama Society presented two plays by Rabindranath Tagore’ [“Sacrifice” and “The Post Office”, produced by Tarun Roy, at the Irving Theatre]. The cast of “Sacrifice” was Queen … Agnes Bernelle Raghupati … Hubert Cross Javsingh … Michael Seavers Aparna … Diana Fulker King … Terence O’Regan Prince … Edward David General Patrick Benson Chandpal … Preetam Singh Dhruva … Bogdan Ghoshal ‘Tagore is a name that has earned world-wide respect, and one can only assume that these plays are given poetic life when performed with formal style in the original language. In the present production they are decidedly tedious. “Sacrifice" has plot and situations strong enough and emotions potentially entangled enough for Webster, but, perhaps to some extent due to translation and condensation, the characters are flat and have no emotional appeal. Without character there is no tension; the short scenes do not build to climaxes, neither does the play as a whole. Its direct, story-telling method makes clear its moral and the author’s humanity, but something so unsophisticated needs at least charm to be attractive, and of that there is none’ (The Stage, 22 May 1952). ‘The two Tagore plays which opened the Irving series of plays representative of European countries, the Middle East, and the Orient, are being presented as authentically as possible. “In this respect,” Mr. Roy said, “European audiences may consider they are overacted, and from your standards they are. But I think it is essential to present and act them as would be done in India, or with the least possible modification. Otherwise they would not be truly representative. Their authentic style and atmosphere must be kept, whatever else may have to be done towards adaptation to fit necessities of the English stage. The Western influence in our theatre is so strong that those who really wish to understand and appreciate it should not have too much difficulty”’ (The Stage, 22 May 1952). [The St. Martin's Theatre was designed by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague and opened on the 23rd of November 1916 ... The proposed name for the Theatre, when it was first discussed in 1912, was to be the Irving Theatre, after Henry Irving, but the name was not used in the end and the Theatre actually opened as the St. Martin's Theatre. The Irving Theatre name was eventually used for a small review Theatre nearby in Leicester Square which opened in 1951 as an art gallery by day and a Theatre at night, closing in 1964' (]
7 May 1961 Old Vic, LondonProfessional
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‘To celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, in May, John Carroll is arranging a rehearsed reading of one of the Indian poet’s plays, “Sacrifice”. It is to be given on a Sunday evening at the Old Vic, with Sybil Thorndike. Lewis Casson, Judi Dench, John Stride and some other members of the Old Vic Company taking part’ (The Stage, 12 January 1961). ‘The centenary of Rabindranath Tagore is to be celebrated at the Old Vic on Sunday, May 7, at 7.30, when Sybil Thorndike, Lewis Casson, Barbara Jefford, Judi Dench, Jane Casson, Robert Harris and John Stride will give a reading from Tagore’s play, “Sacrifice”. John Carroll is arranging the programme, which is also to include the reading of some poems and music played on the harp by Osian Ellis. It is being presented by the Old Vic Club, in co-operation with the Tagore Centenary Committee’ (The Stage, 16 March 1961).
1 Jan 1977 [No Theatre Listed], Professional
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The day and month shown are inserted only to indicate that the play was produced by Tara Arts some time in 1977. ‘Tara Arts, the pioneering Asian theatre company is facing something of an identity crisis. Thanks to an exceptional funding boost from the Arts Council, it is now looking for a permanent home. Stabilisation funding will allow Tara, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, to evolve from being the first Asian theatre company into the first Asian theatre house … Tara’s first production, in 1977, was an adaptation of Sacrifice, by Rabindranath Tagore - the only Indian to have won a Nobel prize for literature’ (The Stage, 6 February 1997).