Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

A good melodrama of its kind. The hero is turned out by his father, the squire for loving the heroine, the niece of a dissenting minister, and enlists. They are secretly married, but she has promised not to tell. A jewel thief is the image of the hero and is in the same regiment. The hero being knocked out by a shell the thief takes his identification disc and papers and turns up as the squire's son. He promptly discovers the heroine and she is disgraced in the chapel for being about to be an unwedded mother. The hero comes at last, invalided out of the army and with loss of memory, but seeing the heroine he regains it and the thief is denounced and arrested. There is the usual trench. There is also a scene in which the thief and a pal escape from London lodgings during Zeppelin raid, with effects of explosions etc. Considering the place of production I think this might be alarming if done realistically and a word of caution might be worthwhile. (Scene II pp17-19). Otherwise the piece contains nothing to object to, though the business of the heroine being scorned and so forth painful. However the audience knows she is really married and will be vindicated in the last scene. Recommended for Licence. G. S. Street. Written undertaking received that there will be no explosions in the performance.

Licensed On: 26 Mar 1918

License Number: 1486

British Library Reference: LCP1918/6

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66188 M


30 Mar 1918 Theatre Royal, Bury St EdmundsProfessional
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An advertisement in the 'Bury Free Press' on 30 March 1918 announced ‘for one night only’ that evening, Will H Glaze’s company in Clifford Rean’s 'When The Joy Bells Are Ringing', ‘a drama of saints and sinners … First Performance on any Stage, prior to production in London’.
1 Apr 1918 Elephant and Castle Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
1 Apr 1918 Royal Artillery Theatre, WoolwichProfessional
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The play was staged at Easter here. Easter Monday was 1 April in 1918.
8 Apr 1918 Elephant and Castle Theatre, LondonProfessional
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The play was staged here between 8 and 13 April 1918. The cast were: Alfred D. Adams (actor and general manager for Mr. Glaze), Henry Elliott (actor), Betty Seymour (actress), C. V. Artoni (actor), Fred T. Carroll (actor), Mr. George Harton (actor), Louise Adams (actress), George Wallace (actor), E. Nixon (actor), C. Gormley (actor). A review in 'The Stage' (18 April 1918) noted: 'the attractive and really significant title of 'When the Joy Bells Are Ringing',[...] Mr. Rean has chosen a war theme, worked out by means of a temporarily successful attempt at personation, with the exchange of papers, identification-discs, and so on. Enlisting as a private after having been disowned by his father, a bigoted and bullying old Tory Squire, named Wildmarsh, the hero, Sidney Wildmarsh, is thought to have been killed “somewhere in the trenches”, and his identity is assumed by his double, Ned Henderson, a jewel-thief and bank-forger, who, with his Pistol-like associate, known as the Major, had taken refuge in the same regiment, so it happens, after their escape from the detectives on the night of a Zeppelin raid. The bogus Sidney is, however, denounced as an impostor by the real hero’s wife, Myrtle, niece of the village Pastor, the Rev. Thomas Probyn, the girl, just then having been called before the congregation to declare who was the father of her unborn child, having promised young Wildmarsh not to reveal their secret marriage without his consent. So, her protestations as to the personation not being heeded, she and her uncle are hounded out of the village of Staplemoor, mainly owing to the machinations of Eli Hagson, a deacon of the chapel and a hypocritical grocer, afterwards charged with profiteering, and finally arrested for complicity in a case of cheque-forging, of which the sham Sydney made his supposed father the victim. Hence Henderson and his accomplice the Major, the latter caught red-handed after burgling the Squire’s safe, are nabbed on the Terrace of Staplemoor Hall (one of several good sets used for the production) as the joy bells are ringing for the granting of a commission to the Squire’s son. Meanwhile, the real Sydney, dressed in hospital blue, and supposed to be suffering from shell-shock, meets with his wife, whom he acknowledges (whereas the impostor had averred, truthfully as it happens, that she was not his wife), and a family group of husband, wife, baby, and grandsire, is seen on the Terrace, whilst the bells of the title are still pealing merrily. In the part of the red-nosed Major Mr. Alfred D. Adams, the general manager for Mr. Glaze, gave a clever and diverting character performance, a skilful piece of doubling being that effected by Mr. Henry Elliott as Sydney and his shadow. Miss Betty Seymour was an earnest and pathetic Myrtle especially good in the scenes of partial confession, after the manner of The Scarlet Letter, and a good, sound, vigorous impersonation of the much-troubled Pastor was that presented by Mr. C. V. Artoni. Mr. Fred T. Carroll duly made “the gruel thick and slab(?)” as the insidiously malignant Hagson, and the light relief was supplied acceptably by Mr. George Harton, very bright as Jerry Goslin, one of the various soldiers seen in the piece, and by Miss Louise Adams, a buxom and amusing exponent of Sally Drake, whom he marries. Mr. George Wallace made a typical heavy father of the blustering old Squire, and other parts were filled by Mr. E. Nixon and Mr. C. Gormley’.
15 Apr 1918 Junction Theatre, ManchesterProfessional
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The play was performed here between 15 and 20 April.
29 Apr 1918 Theatre Royal, LeedsProfessional
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The play was performed here between 29 April and 4 May. The cast included: Alfred D. Adams (actor), Mr. George Gormley (actor), Hilary Burleigh (actress). A review in the 'Yorkshire Evening Post' (30 April 1918) commented that ‘[A] military drama occupies the boards at the Theatre Royal, and while 'When The Joy Bells Are Ringing' contains many stirring scenes, the plot is at times somewhat overdrawn. It is rather difficult, for example, to swallow the episode of the enterprising inspector of police who "camouflaged" as a typical "Ole Bill", is enabled by the thoughtful connivance of the military authorities, to continue the chase of a couple of “crooks” right up to the battle line’.
6 May 1918 Prince's Theatre, BradfordProfessional
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Performed here from 6-11 May.
13 May 1918 Theatre Royal, ScarboroughProfessional
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Performed here from 13-18 May.
20 May 1918 Garrick Theatre, EdinburghProfessional
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Performed here from 20-25 May.
27 May 1918 Pavilion Theatre, AshingtonProfessional
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Performed here between 27 May and 1 June.
3 Jun 1918 Theatre Royal, South ShieldsProfessional
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Performed here between 3 and 8 June.
17 Jun 1918 Prince's Theatre, PortsmouthProfessional
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Performed here between 17 and 22 June.
22 Jul 1918 Palace, NewcastleProfessional
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Performed here between 22 and 27 July 1918
18 Nov 1918 Alexandra Theatre, HullProfessional
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Performed here between 18 and 23 November with a cast including Harry Tresham (actor), John Hooker (actor), and Miss Marrott (actress). The 'Hull Daily Mail' reviewed the play on 19 November 1918 and wrote: 'The play selected this week by the Watson Mill Company is not, as some might be led to believe, a play written round the victory of the Allies. It is, however, a military play and is on the same lines as 'His Last Leave'. Clifford Rean, the author, has a thorough grasp of the emotions of the melodramatic audiences of the present day, and creates some strong character drawing. The story deals with the remarkable resemblance of two men entirely unknown to each other. No wonder that the old father was taken in by the impersonator of his soldier son. All ends well, for the real son of the Squire of Hindmarsh eventually returns from the war and is reunited to his family once more. Mr Harry Tresham fills the two roles - one Sidney Wildmarsh, son of the Squire of Staplemoor, and the other a jewel thief named Ned Henderson. The former has been married secretly to the niece of the village parson. After his return to the front the “double” presents himself, and complications ensue. Eventually, both the parson and his young niece are driven from the village in disgrace. In the last scene the young squire, who had lost his memory through shell shock, returns in time to claim Myrtle as his wife. Mr John Hooker as the Squire, Miss Marrott as Myrtle, and the rest of the company gave of their best, the piece “going” with a smoothness we are now accustomed to from this company’.