Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This is an ingenuous spy-play, dealing with the nefarious proceedings of a naturalized German and his son, the former in the sea-coast town where they live, and the matter in the trenches abroad. Opposed to them are one of their servants and her soldier-sweetheart, while matters are further complicated by the younger villain's base treatment of the local postmistress, whom his father bribes for the purposes of his frauds. The plot is full of improbabilities in its action both civil and military: and the 'signalling' business both at home and abroad is rather difficult to understand. But the crudity of the melodrama is quite free from offence while its patriotic sentiment is perfectly sound. Recommended for Licence. Ernest A. Bendall.

Researcher's Summary:

The play was anticipated in The Stage, 2 May 1918 in an advertisement for Wilson Howard’s The Broken Trail which mentioned ‘new production shortly, “Back From Overseas”. Both plays produced and toured under the personal supervision of the Author’. The Broken Trail and Back From Overseas, both written by Wilson Howard, were produced by the touring company run by Maud Warburton and Wilson Howard, both of whom also performed in the plays. The Stage, 23 May 1918 lists The Broken Trail as on tour at the Theatre Royal, Dewsbury from 20 May 1918. Back From Overseas was first performed there on Friday 24 May 1918. It was usual thereafter for Back From Overseas to be performed in conjunction with another Wilson Howard play, initially The Broken Trail and later (from late 1918 or early 1919) Let There Be Light. An advertisement in The Stage, 30 May 1918 seeking theatres for both Back From Overseas and The Broken Trail added, ‘One or both plays. Can stay two weeks in a town’. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 4 June 1918 noted that ‘“The Broken Trail,” by Wilson Howard, which is being performed at the Hippodrome this week, is a breezy drama [and] on Friday night a new spy play, entitled “Back from Overseas,” is to be substituted’ for it. The Stage, 6 and 20 June 1918 advertised Back From Overseas which could be ‘booked in conjunction with the established hit The Broken Trail’. An advertisement in The Stage, 6 February 1919 seeking theatres for Back From Overseas added ‘can play The Broken Trail in addition, if desired’. And The Stage, 27 February 1919 noted, ‘Back from Overseas is well received [at the King’s Theatre, Colne] [and] The Broken Trail is given tonight’. The Broken Trail was listed in The Stage as ‘on tour’ at various provincial theatres much more often than Back From Overseas. On the other hand, advertisements seeking theatres for Back From Overseas in The Stage 9, 23 and 30 January 1919 did not mention any other play. Details of performances shown in the database track the movements of the Maud Warburton – Wilson Howard company during the period when Back From Overseas was included in their repertoire,. However, it is not possible to be certain about when and how often Back From Overseas was performed rather than the other play(s) being toured with it. I cannot resolve an apparent discrepancy concerning the week 17-22 June 1918. On the one hand, The Broken Trail is listed in The Stage, 13 and 20 June 1918 as being ‘on tour’ at the ‘R., Stockport’ from 17 June. On the other hand, an advertisement for Back From Overseas and The Broken Trail in The Stage, 20 June 1918 gives Wilson Howard’s address that week as the Hippodrome, Nuneaton and an advertisement in The Stage, 27 June 1918 contains claims about the success of Back From Overseas at Nuneaton the previous week. Perhaps another company had been given permission to perform The Broken Trail at Stockport The Examiner of Plays called Back From Overseas a ‘spy play’ and that is how it was often advertised (The Stage, 6 and 20 June, 12 September and 31 October 1918 and 13 February 1919; The Era, 18 September 1918). Local newspapers promoted it in the same way (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 4 June 1918; Newcastle Journal, 16 September 1918; Yorkshire Evening Post, 22 October 1918; Jarrow Express, 6 and 13 December 1918). However, the theme of the internment of enemy aliens was also identified. The Western Morning News, 31 August 1918 noted, ‘The play is on one of the burning subjects of the day - the internment question - which the author propounds and answers in eight scenes of thrilling and absorbing interest’; and the play was advertised in the same newspaper on 6 September 1918 as ‘The New Drama on the Internment Question’. Subsequently Back From Overseas was advertised as ‘The “Should Aliens be Interned” Spy-Play’ in The Stage, 10 and 17 October 1918. It is perhaps surprising that the internment of enemy aliens was seen as a topic of current interest in 1918 since it had been practised since shortly after the outbreak of the war and had intensified from May 1915 (https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/enemy-aliens-great-britain-1914-1919). It has not been possible to identify dates for performances in Poplar (mentioned with no further information in an advertisement in The Era, 9 October 1918) and at the Hippodrome, Wednesbury (venue but no date(s) mentioned in an advertisement in The Stage, 23 January 1919). Two other repertory companies were given permission to perform the play. Messrs. King and Parry’s company, which was based at the Grand Theatre, Plymouth, performed it there from 2 to 7 September 1918 (having performed The Broken Trail the previous month). Albert Sember’s company, which was based at the Theatre Royal, Sunderland, performed it there from 30 September to 5 October 1918.

License Number: 1566

Author(s):

Genre(s):

British Library Reference: LCP1918/9

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66191 E

Performances

DateTheatreType
24 May 1918 Theatre Royal, DewsburyUnknown Licensed Performance
24 May 1918 Theatre Royal, DewsburyProfessional
Read Narrative
Back From Overseas was ‘Produced with instantaneous success at T.R., Dewsbury last week … Hundreds turned away second house’. Advertisement in The Stage, 30 May 1918.
27 May 1918 Grand, HalifaxProfessional
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Venue and dates mentioned in advertisements in The Era, 22 May 1918 and The Stage, 23 and 30 May 1918. Advertisement for Back From Overseas: ‘An immense success. The enthusiastic reception received at Dewsbury repeated at Halifax … and as J. Hinton, Esq., Manager at Halifax, says – “A Punch in every scene.”’. The Stage, 6 June 1918. Advertisement: ‘Back From Overseas produced Whit week at Dewsbury, scored an instantaneous success, which has been repeated without abatement at Halifax, Huddersfield and Bury'. The Stage 27 June 1918.
7 Jun 1918 Hippodrome, HuddersfieldProfessional
Read Narrative
‘“The Broken Trail,” by Wilson Howard, which is being performed at the Hippodrome this week, is a breezy drama … On Friday night a new spy play, entitled “Back from Overseas,” is to be substituted for “The Broken Trail”’ . Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 4 June 1918. Cast listed in an advertisement in The Stage, 6 June 1918
10 Jun 1918 Theatre Royal, BuryProfessional
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Venue and dates mentioned in advertisements in The Stage, 6 and 13 June 1918. It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the Royal, Bury from 10 June in The Stage, 13 June 1918.
17 Jun 1918 Theatre Royal, StockportProfessional
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It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the R., Stockport from 17 June in The Stage, 13 and 20 June 1918. See the 'narrative' section for a suggestion that Back From Overseas was performed at Nuneaton this week and that The Broken Trail was performed at Stockport by another company.
17 Jun 1918 Hippodrome, NuneatonProfessional
Read Narrative
Advertisement: ‘Back From Overseas produced Whit week at Dewsbury, scored an instantaneous success, which has been repeated without abatement at Halifax, Huddersfield and Bury. Last week all dramatic records for the last two years and a half well beaten. Receipts far in advance of some first-class revues. Saturday night nearly £10 above pantomime. Ovations nightly. Manager H. R. Lynn delighted. Press and public unanimous in praise. One leading journal: - “Undoubtedly the most gripping drama we have had in Nuneaton.” Another: - “The dialogue is bright and crisp, the plot is exciting without being nauseous, and the acting first-class.”’. The Stage 27 June 1918.
24 Jun 1918 Empire, Mountain AshProfessional
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Venue and date mentioned in an advertisement in The Stage, 27 June 1918. It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the E., Mountain Ash from 24 June in the Stage, 20 and 27 June 1918.
1 Jul 1918 New Theatre, PontypriddProfessional
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Venue and date mentioned in an advertisement in The Stage, 27 June 1918. It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the New, Pontypridd from 1 July in the Stage, 4 July 1918.
8 Jul 1918 Grand, RhylProfessional
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Venue and date mentioned in an advertisement in The Stage, 13 June 1918 (in an advertisement seeking theatres for The Broken Trail and Back From Overseas on July 1 and 15, to precede and follow the Grand Theatre, Rhyl). It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the Grand, Rhyl from 8 July in the Stage, 4 and 11 July 1918.
29 Jul 1918 ?, BoltonProfessional
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Town and dates mentioned in an advertisement in The Stage, 27 June 1918 (in an advertisement seeking theatres for Back From Overseas and The Broken Trail (‘two pronounced successes … These plays have proved themselves’) on July 15 and 22, between Rhyl and Bolton). It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the R.(?) or H.(?), Bolton from 29 July in the Stage, 1 August 1918.
26 Aug 1918 Alexandra Theatre, BirminghamProfessional
Read Narrative
'A Canadian drama, “The Broken Trail,” has been booked for the Alexandra Theatre [next week]. Mr. Wilson Howard end Miss Maud Warburton will figure in the leading parts’. Birmingham Daily Post, 24 August 1918. Also reviews in the Birmingham Daily Post, the Birmingham Mail and the Evening Despatch, all 27 August 1918, identifying Wilson Howard and Maud Warburton as playing the leading rôles.
2 Sep 1918 Grand, PlymouthProfessional
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‘At the Grand Theatre, Plymouth, next week will be staged the latest topical drama, entitled “Back from Overseas,” produced only a few weeks ago in Liverpool. The play is on one of the burning subjects of the day - the internment question - which the author propounds and answers in eight scenes of thrilling and absorbing interest. Messrs. Walter H. Wilson, John Durant, Eric Morden, and the Misses Violet Ingram and Gwendolen Verschoyle are entrusted with the principal parts’. Western Morning News, 31 August 1918. Those cast members were part of Messrs. King and Parry’s stock repertory company which was based at the Grand, Theatre, Plymouth (as mentioned , for example, in the Western Morning News, 16 July and 21 December 1918). Back From Overseas was advertised as ‘The New Drama on the Internment Question’. Western Morning News, 6 September 1918.
2 Sep 1918 Hippodrome, ChesterfieldProfessional
Read Narrative
It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the H., Chesterfield from 2 September in the Stage, 5 September 1918. Advertisement for ‘The Maud Warburton – Wilson Howard Attractions’, namely Back From Overseas and The Broken Trail, both by Wilson Howard. On the former: ‘A spy play – with a difference. This show is an unqualified success, and is fast booking. Big Week again at Hippodrome, Chesterfield, last week'. The Stage, 12 September 1918.
9 Sep 1918 Globe Theatre, ConsettProfessional
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It is The Broken Trail is listed as on tour at the G., Consett from 9 September in the Stage, 5 and 12 September 1918.
16 Sep 1918 Palace, NewcastleProfessional
Read Narrative
‘Patrons of the Palace Theatre will have a fine story entitled “Back From Overseas” served up for their enjoyment [next week]. From the pen of Wilson Howard, it is presented by Maude Warburton’. Newcastle Journal, 14 September 1918. Advertised as ‘Warburton and Howard’s Specially Selected Co. [in] Back From Overseas. An Absolute Novel. The Great Spy Play’. Newcastle Journal, 16 September 1918. ‘An effective way in which to deal with the menace of the “hidden band” was shown at the Palace Theatre, Newcastle, With “Back From Overseas” - one of the best of the plays from the pen of Wilson Howard. In the chief role is Mr Howard himself, and his interpretation of Private Tom Brown is excellent. Maud Warburton as Bessie Grey is appreciated, and her efforts are always sure of an ovation. There are several scenes ranging from a quiet English garden grimmer scenes in France’. Newcastle Journal, 17 September 1918. Back From Overseas is listed as on tour at the Pal., Newcastle from 16 September in the Stage, 19 September 1918.
23 Sep 1918 Metropole, GlasgowProfessional
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Venue and dates mentioned in an advertisement in The Era, 18 September 1918. It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at the Met., Glasgow from 23 September in the Stage, 19 and 26 September 1918.
30 Sep 1918 Theatre Royal, CoatbridgeProfessional
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Venue and date mentioned in an advertisement in The Era, 18 September 1918.
30 Sep 1918 Theatre Royal, SunderlandProfessional
Read Narrative
Advertised as ‘Albert Sember’s company in Back From Overseas’. Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 1 and 3 October 1918. Albert Sember’s repertory company was permanently based at the Theatre Royal, Sunderland.
7 Oct 1918 Theatre Royal, WhitehavenProfessional
Read Narrative
Venue and dates mentioned in advertisements in The Era, 18 September 1918 and The Stage, 10 October 1918. Current cast is listed in an advertisement in The Era, 9 October 1918.
14 Oct 1918 Theatre Royal, CastlefordProfessional
Read Narrative
Venue and date mentioned in advertisements in The Era, 18 September 1918 and The Stage, 10 and 17 October 1918. Back From Overseas is listed as on tour at Castleford from 14 October 1918 in the Stage, 17 October 1918.
21 Oct 1918 Theatre Royal, LeedsProfessional
Read Narrative
Back From Overseas is advertised with no mention of The Broken Trail in the Leeds Mercury and the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 14 and 15 October 1918. Back From Overseas is listed as on tour at the R., Leeds from 21 October in the Stage, 17 October 1918. ‘“Back from Overseas,” the drama at the Theatre Royal, is one of the many spy plays prompted by the war situation. The spy is one Carl Meyer, a naturalised Englishman, who, to attain his objects, goes even as far as theft of the heroine’s “ring paper.” Miss Maud Warburton is a convincing heroine, and Mr. Wilson Howard acts with rare manliness as an honest and straightforward British Tommy’. Yorkshire Evening Post, 22 October 1918. ‘A play in which the author himself appears generally goes well, and “Back from Overseas,” which is produced at the Theatre Royal, is no exception. It deals with the work of the enemy secret service agents in a dramatic manner. Mr. Wilson Howard, in the part of Private Tom Brown, makes a manly soldier; and Miss Maud Warburton achieves success as the heroine. The piece possesses a good vein of comedy’. Leeds Mercury, 22 October 1918. The Broken Trail is listed as on tour at the R., Leeds from 28 October in the Stage, 31 October 1918.
4 Nov 1918 Theatre Royal, West BromwichProfessional
Read Narrative
‘Maud Warburton and Wilson Howard’s Back From Overseas’ is listed in ‘calls for next week’ at the Royal, West Bromwich in The Stage, 31 October 1918. Both Back From Overseas and The Broken Trail are listed as on tour at the R., West Bromwich from 4 November in the Stage, 31 October and 7 November 1918.
11 Nov 1918 Theatre Royal, StratfordProfessional
Read Narrative
Venue and date mentioned in advertisements in The Stage, 27 June 1918 and in The Era, 18 September.
18 Nov 1918 Theatre Royal, GlossopProfessional
Read Narrative
Venue and date mentioned in an advertisement for The Broken Trail and Back From Overseas in The Stage, 21 November 1918. It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at Glossop from 18 November in the Stage, 21 November 1918.
25 Nov 1918 Prince's Theatre, BradfordProfessional
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Venue and date mentioned in an advertisement in The Era, 18 September 1918. It is The Broken Trail that is listed as on tour at P’s., Bradford from 25 November in the Stage, 21 and 28 November 1918.
2 Dec 1918 Royal Theatre, South ShieldsProfessional
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Venue and date mentioned in advertisements in The Era, 18 September 1918 and The Stage, 28 November and 5 December 1918 It is The Broken Trail is listed as on tour at the R., South Shields from 2 December in the Stage, 28 November and 5 December 1918. Advertisements in the Shields Daily News, 4 and 7 December 1918 mention The Broken Trail as being performed twice nightly.
9 Dec 1918 Theatre Royal, JarrowProfessional
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Theatre Royal, Jarrow 9-14 December 1918 Advertised in the Jarrow Express, 6 and 13 December 1918 as ‘the great spy play’, playing for six nights at 6.40 and 8.40 with no mention of The Broken Trail. ‘This week Miss Warburton and Company have been paying a visit to Jarrow in “Back from Overseas.” Miss Warburton is a great favourite with Jarrow audiences and always receives a warm welcome. She had [sic] been appearing as Bessie Gray, and has been ably supported by the other members of the Company. W. Howard (Tom Brown), Roland Willis (Carl Meyer), Frank Lorraine (Joseph Myer [sic]), H. Colbeck (Mr. Jobbins), Nina Mallam (Bessie Brandon), Cissie Lorraine (Selina), and Clara Winter (Mrs. Grey)’. Jarrow Express, 13 December 1918.
3 Feb 1919 Gaiety Theatre, Houghton-Le-SpringProfessional
Read Narrative
Venue and opening date 3 February mentioned in advertisements in The Stage, 30 January 1919 and The Era, 5 February 1919. The two-week booking is confirmed by a advertisement in The Stage, 6 February 1919 which gives Wilson Howard's contact details as 'this [week] and next, Gaiety Theatre, Houghton-le-Spring'. ‘Maud Warburton and Wilson Howard’s company are here [Gaiety Theatre, Houghton-le-Spring] in a spy play, Back from Overseas. Maud Warburton in the rôle of Bessie Gray is distinctly good. Wilson Howard gives a typical reading of Private Brown. J. Soden as Carl Meyer meets with well-earned success. Among others who contribute to the success of the performance are T. C. Conlon (Joseph Meyer), Harry Colbeck (Jobbins), Ella Thornton (Bessie Brandon), and Kate Randolph (Mrs. Grey)’. The Stage, 13 February 1919.
17 Feb 1919 Hippodrome, DarwenProfessional
Read Narrative
'The Winburton [sic] and Wilson Howard company appear [at the Hippodrome, Darwen] in Back from Overseas and The Broker’s [sic] Trail. They opened with the former to good houses on Monday’. The Stage, 20 February 1919.
24 Feb 1919 King's Theatre, ColneProfessional
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Back from Overseas is listed as ‘on tour’ at the King’s Theatre, Colne from 24 February in The Stage, 20 and 27 February 1919. ‘Back from Overseas is well received [at the King’s, Colne]. Principal parts are well sustained by Wilson Howard, Maud Warburton, J. O. Steward, T C. Conlan, Harry Colbeck, Clara Winter, etc. The Broken Trail is given tonight’. The Stage, 27 February 1919.
3 Mar 1919 (?), LiverpoolProfessional
Read Narrative
Back From Overseas is listed as on tour at the 'R., Liverpool' from 3 March in The Stage, 6 March 1919.
10 Mar 1919 Victoria, StourbridgeProfessional
Read Narrative
‘The Broken Trail, a gripping Canadian drama, was submitted to packed houses on Monday by Maude Warburton [at the Victoria, Stourbridge]. Wilson Howard and company’s Let There Be Light and Back From Overseas will be given during the week’. The Stage, 13 March 1919.
5 May 1919 Theatre Royal, BilstonProfessional
Read Narrative
Listed in ‘from the provinces’: ‘Maud Warburton and Wilson Howard’s company is presenting “Let There Be Light” and “Back from Overseas” [at the Royal, Bilston]'. The Era, 7 May 1919.