Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

A scene of military chaff, probably written by a man conversant with the details. A private applies for five days leave to the sergeant, who tell him to see the sergeant major next day, who tells him to see the lieutenant next day, who tells him to see the captain next day and so on until he gets to the colonel and the doctor. Nearly all these superiors entrust him with a parcel to deliver in England. Finally he is put under arrest because the five days he had applied for are more than up. It is good humoured chaff and I do not think any real disrespect to authority is intended. The private appears to cheek his superiors, but as they never notice it is evidently done in asides and they are not supposed to hear. I may add that so far as I am aware the author is unknown to me! Recommended for Licence. G. S. Street

Researcher's Summary:

The sketch was licensed on 25 March 1918 for performance on Friday 5 April 1918 at the Empire Theatre, Rothesay, the principal town on the Isle of Bute. There is no definite evidence that it was performed there and then. It may have been performed in the Town Hall, Newry, Ireland in July 1918. Otherwise the only definite performances were given in Ireland in 1919 when the central character in the sketch was assimilated to Old Bill, the well-known comic creation of Bruce Bairnsfather.

Licensed On: 25 Mar 1918

License Number: 1484

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British Library Reference: LCP1918/6

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66188 K

Performances

DateTheatreType
5 Apr 1918 Empire Theatre, RothesayUnknown Licensed Performance
5 Apr 1918 Empire Theatre, RothesayProfessional
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The sketch was licensed on 25 March 1918 for performance on Friday 5 April 1918 at the Empire Theatre, Rothesay, the principal town on the Isle of Bute. Advertisements and notices in the local Rothesay weekly newspaper, the Buteman and West Coast Chronicle, on Friday 22 and 29 March and 5 April 1918 show that the musical burlesque ‘Thumbs’, in seven scenes, was performed at the Empire Theatre, Rothesay, for one week only beginning Monday 1 April. The sketch's author, George A Street, performed in 'Thumbs' in various Scottish towns in late 1917 and into 1918 (e.g. Motherwell Times, 2 November 1917; Stirling Observer, 11 December 1917; etc., etc. up to the Perthshire Advertiser, 20 March 1918). It is therefore likely that Street was performing in Rothesay on 5 April 1918. However, neither he nor ‘Five Days’ Leave’ is mentioned in the Buteman and West Coast Chronicle, although the notice that appeared on 5 April 1918 was printed before the sketch was purportedly to be performed for the first time that evening.
19 Jul 1918 Town Hall, NewryAmateur
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‘Entertainment In Newry. A well-attended and most successful entertainment in aid of comforts for wounded soldiers in the Newry General Hospital and in the local Military Hospital was given in the Town Hall, Newry, on Friday night last by the Royal Scots, assisted by two young lady vocalists, Miss Masson and Miss Littlewood. The programme embraced selections by the orchestra of the battalion, songs, recitations, and a couple of sketches entitled “Five Days Leave” and “A Barrack-room Scene.”’. Belfast Newsletter, Monday 22 July 1918. Other than the identity of title, there is no evidence that this was the sketch by George A Street.
9 Jun 1919 Opera House, LondonderryProfessional
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The Opera House, Londonderry advertised for the week commencing Monday 9 June 1919 a show comprising ‘George Rhodes & Co. in Old Bill’s Five Days’ Leave. The big London success’ and other variety acts (Madge Clifton, Eileen Muraghan, Beaudyn & Brett, Dainty Caprice, Fred Downs). Derry Journal, 6 and 9 June 1919; Donegal Independent, 7 June 1919; Londonderry Sentinel, 7 and 10 June 1919. ‘“Five Days’ Leave”, a clever skit on how leave was granted to a soldier, was very cleverly presented by George Rhodes & Co., the humour of the piece being revealed by the fact that the leave had been fully expired before “Old Bill” got his pass completed’. Londonderry Sentinel, 10 June 1919. ‘The Rhodes Company, in “Five Days’ Leave,” knocked ‘em stiff. “Ole Bill” is a gem and he can do the Bairnsfather stunt to the life. It was most enjoyable and a pleasing change’. Donegal Independent, 14 June 1919. The last part of the notice in the Londonderry Sentinel confirms that this was the sketch by George A Street; there is no evidence, however, that it had been performed in London. The names of the other performers on the bill are those of actors who were members of Street's company when he produced his play 'The Cattle Thief' in Belfast the following week. Moreover, he and Madge Clifton (under the name Harriet) were living together at the time of the 1911 census and they were to marry later in 1919. Is it possible that, for some reason, 'George Rhodes' masks the identity of 'George Street'?
28 Jul 1919 Gaiety, BelfastUnknown
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The Belfast Telegraph, Monday 28 July 1919 carried an advertisement for the Gaiety Theatre: ‘Twice nightly, all this week, George A Street in his Latest Creation, Old Bill’s “Five Days Leave”’, supported by several variety acts: Dainty Caprice, Jack M’Garvey, Fred Bentley and Stella Rae, Johnnie Daly, and ‘the entire company’ in 'The Secret'. At the Gaiety, Belfast ‘Mr. Geo. A. Street’s company are here this week, playing “Old Bill’s Five Days’ Leave” and “The Secret”’ supported by other variety acts. The Stage, 31 July 1919.
4 Sep 1919 Electric Theatre, LarneUnknown
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The Larne Times, Saturday 30 August 1919 advertised that at the Larne Electric Theatre on Thursday, Friday and Saturday ‘Geo. A. Street and his company of talented artistes, will play the screaming absurdity, “Old Bill’s Five Days’ Leave.” One big laugh throughout. Feeling run down? Get “bucked up” by witnessing this amusing playlet. Full picture programme to all matinees’.