Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This is a light and more or less sparkling comedy of a very topical kind. A point for consideration is if some of it be not a little too topical. The plot is simple. Culver, the accounts controller, denounces the degradation of titles in the new list of honours. He himself is offered a baronetcy and wishes to refuse it. His wife wishes him to accept it and the play is mainly the contest between their wills, very skilfully presented. At the end of act II Mrs Culver having intimated that his refusal will end conjugal relations between them - this is quite delicately managed - Culver consents. Now their daughter Hildegarde has been writing 'advanced' articles attacking the Government in 'The Echo' under the name of Sampson Straight. In act III she and her brother, a school-boy, who hate the baronetcy idea, put pressure on Mrs Culver and when the boy says that if the baronetcy is persisted in he will go into the Flying Corps instead of the safer Siege Artillery she gives way. (This is certainly an unsympathetic touch). Then an adventurer whose real name is Sampson Straight turns up and claims the articles. He is discomfited by the appearance of Tranto, the editor of 'The Echo' but when Tranto announces that the Government, if Culver refuses, proposes to offer the baronetcy to 'Sampson Straight', Culver consents and Mrs Culver wins. Attacks on the alleged sale and degradation otherwise of honours are frequent in the newspapers and in ordinary talk and satire on that subject cannot of course be kept from the stage - even if that were desirable. General talk of that sort may pass. But I have marked passages where it is rather extreme. Act I, p.25 about the swindling contractor. That can hardly be interfered with. Act I, p.26. The ideas of (1) the man bribed for withholding a damaging book, and (2) the innuendo that a man with some damaging knowledge about the head of the government is bribed, go rather far, especially the latter. Personally I should not interfere, as it is tolerably vague and the whole piece is designedly very light and more or less absurd, but the point may be considered. The Harmsworth family and its titles is glanced at in act I, p.6 but I think that fair satire. Recommended for License, G. S. Street.

Researcher's Summary:

The play is available online at The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Title, by Arnold Bennett. The plot owes little to Great War-related elements. The Culvers’ son John has an unusual line in emotional blackmail, threatening his mother that, if she insists that his father must accept the baronetcy that is on offer, he will enlist, against her wishes, in the Royal Flying Corps rather than in the Siege Artillery, which she thinks would be safer for him, telling her, ‘If you really want to shorten my life, all you have to do is to stick to that bally baronetcy’. Otherwise there are passing references to food shortages and rationing and the need to economise, and to the Medical Boards which determined men’s fitness to serve. Also John’s school has ‘munition workshops - with government inspectors tumbling all over us about once a week. O.T.C. work. Field days. Cramming fellows for Sandhurst. Not to mention female masters. “Mistresses,” I ought to say, perhaps’. The Sunday Mirror, 22 December 1918, regarded 'The Title', 'General Post' (by J. E. Harold Terry) and 'Nurse Benson' (by R. C. Carton and J. H. McCarthy) as native (i.e. non-American) examples of 'harmless, unpretentious light comedy'. 'The Title' ran at the Royalty Theatre, London, for over 250 performances from 20 July 1918 to 22 March 1919. It also toured from 3 March to 7 June 1919, preceded by a one-act comedy “Postal Orders” by Roland Pertwee. Other infrequent performances or readings were mostly by amateur groups. The 1948 and 1950 performances listed here were respectively BBC radio and television broadcasts. In addition, performances were apparently planned by the British Rhine Army Dramatic Company (Cambridge Daily News, 18 July 1919) and by a musical and dramatic society formed by the Sheffield Ethical Society (the Sheffield Independent and the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 25 February 1920).

Licensed On: 17 Jun 1918

License Number: 1626

Author(s):

Genre(s):

Keyword(s):

British Library Reference: LCP1918/11

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66193 G

Performances

DateTheatreType
22 Jun 1918 Royalty Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
20 Jul 1918 Royalty Theatre, LondonProfessional
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‘Sir Arnold Bennett scored a distinct success with his new three-act comedy, “The Title,” at the Royalty Theatre, last [sic] night. The story is a slight one, but the dialogue, in which the Press and the Government, as well as the granting of titles, are treated with a satire that is almost Swiftian, is sparkling. The author has views, and although they are exaggerated, behind them all are brains. The last act has an obviously apparent weakness in the. introduction of the bigamist Sampson Straight, whom Mr Nigel Playfair, with all his cleverness, could not make interesting. But for this the play would be a war-time masterpiece. It is, however, one of the few intellectual plays produced this year' (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 July 1918). ‘It is good to find that Mr. Arnold Bennett’s recent excursions in the direction of polities have not spoilt his sense of humour, or deprived of its peculiar keenness and subtlety the flair he has for the absurdities and contradictions - for the humanity, in a word - of the life around him. For here, in “The Title,” which filled the little Royalty with laughter on Saturday night, we have an entertainment full to the brim of the wit, spontaneous, ‘right,’ and never strained, of the observation, sincere and direct, of which true comedy is and ever has been compounded. It is, indeed, Mr. Bennett at his very best; and, as everyone knows, there is nothing going nowadays much better than that’ (Morning Post, quoted in the Staffordshire Sentinel, 22 July 1918). ‘It is really a sort of revue of the light side of England in the war, and appearing as it does when victory is in the air its value was heightened’ (Manchester Guardian, quoted in the Staffordshire Sentinel, 22 July 1918). ‘Plenty of unpretentious fun, not too recondite, about honours lists, Governments, newspaper-owning families, schoolboys, modern girls, matrimony, and other not unfamiliar topics. The overworked word camouflage is not disdained. The audience on Saturday night was unmistakably delighted with the whole entertainment’ (The Times, quoted in the Staffordshire Sentinel, 22 July 1918). The Era, 24 July 1918, reviewed ‘“The Title.” Comedy, in Three Acts, by Arnold Bennett. Produced at the Royalty Theatre on Saturday, July 20’. The cast was: Mr. Culver, C. Aubrey Smith; John Culver, Leslie Howard; Tranto, Martin Lewis; Sampson Straight, Nigel Playfair; Mrs. Culver, Eva Moore; Hildegard Culver, Joyce Carey; Miss Starkey, Gertrude Sterroll; and Parlourmaid, [Miss] Archie Varre. The review continued: ‘There is a wealth of typical Arnold Bennett satire – amiable, but with a bite to it – in “The Title.” This is a play that invigorates and fascinates at the same time, invigorates by the sanity of its outlook on life and its contempt of fripperies, and fascinates by the humanity that underlies its most trenchant criticisms. Published in book form, there will be many who, having seen it acted, will seize on it eagerly to relive again in an armchair some of the tickling sensations that it inspired at its performance. The theme is principally a gibe at honours, their worthlessness and the fictitious value that is attached to them; but Mr. Bennett finds time in much brilliant dialogue to quiz happily many other human weaknesses – the Press, Controllers, Journalists, Rationing and particularly the Wonderful Reasoning of Woman' (The Era, 24 July 1918). ‘I shall not be surprised if Mr Arnold Bennett’s comedy, “The Title,” is voted by something like common consent the best thing the war has produced in stage-land' (Musselburgh News, 26 July 1918). ‘Mr. Arnold Bennett’s new comedy, “The Title,” at the Royalty, supplies many tilts at Government, especially in the shape of its distribution of honours, which are now flowing in a stream as lavish as anything that Germany can produce. But Government is not so much his real target as woman, for Mr. Arthur Culver, when he refuses a baronetcy offered to him for his work in accountancy, is attacked first by his wife, then by his typist, and, having repelled both, is compelled to accept the honour in order to save the reputation of his daughter, who has been writing some strong articles for newspapers in the name of “Sampson Straight.” The comedy has real wit in it, and it is brilliantly played' (Graphic, 27 July 1918). ‘For two out of the three acts of his new play, Mr. Arnold Bennett gives us brilliant art and delightful satire on a topic that always lends itself to satirical treatment. If only he could have kept up the standard, we should have had what we have been so long hoping for on the English stage - a true specimen of modern comedy. Mr. Bennett’s choice of subject is apt to the hour; he deals with titles, and the persons who want and do not want such honours. And the idea running through his play is as amusing and acceptable as the clever dialogue which adorns it; that idea is that is the women rather than the men who keep the honours list going ... [Culver's wife is] a fluffy-brained, but self-willed woman, who thinks that a title, like champagne or high heels, is worth suffering for, and does so long to be “ my-ladied by her parlour-maid ... But at length the playwright’s inventiveness seems to have failed him; he appears to have found difficulty in getting his story to a close; and so he makes the mistake of introducing a new character, in whom it is impossible to be interested, and dragging in with him complications that are tedious rather than entertaining Still, let us be glad to get even two-thirds of perfection, especially as the acting, at any rate, does not fall short of being perfect' (Illustrated London News, 27 July 1918). ‘“Dora,” or the Lord Chamberlain, or the Censorship, or whoever it is sees to these things, can’t, as someone says, be quite so ‘tirely sans a sense of humour as we sometimes think they are - or they’d never have passed for publication, and the merriment of the masses, Mr. Arnold Bennett’s delightful satire at the Royalty, The Title. It gets its big dig in at every imaginable official quirk, it pokes fun at Honours, bestowers and bestowed-upon alike, and shows the calm indifference, not to say contempt, of the younger generation to the fetishes its forbears bowed down to and humbly worshipped' (The Tatler, 31 July 1918; 'Dora' is the Defence of the Realm Act). ‘“The Title,” a comedy in three acts, by Arnold Bennett, is written by a man who has achieved success ere this, especially with “Milestones.” When a play is named so as to betray a connection with the giving of titles, it is generally a satire, and that is what Mr. Bennett evidently wanted it to be. In this instance, too, there is a very brilliant dialogue such as this author usually supplies ... The comedy drags a little in places, but the spirited and biting sarcasm of the dialogue à la Bennett is very helpful, and as it is human nature to laugh at others’ foibles there is plenty of amusing entertainment for the audience’ (Gloucester Citizen, 7 August 1918). ‘If clever dialogue, pointed hits at everything and everybody, especially governments, many bright scenes and some really brilliant acting, can achieve success for Mr. Arnold Bennett’s new comedy, The Title, produced the other day at the Royalty Theatre, then the new piece is likely to romp home a very easy winner. It possesses all these things in abundance, only handicapped by a plot, so complicated towards the close that I would not bet my Food Book - one of the most precious things I possess - I could tell it clearly to any person whose brain was not the kind to solve easily tricky mathematical problems ... the victory of Mrs. Culver over her husband, her daughter, and her son constitutes the real story of The Title. The rest hardly matters, and is, moreover, rather confusing ... it is not the things which the people of The Title do which is important - most of them have been done before in such plays as Mary Goes First - it is the things they say which are our only interest. And the things they say ... will bring success to the new play. Of course the Northcliffe Press comes in for quite a lot of amusing criticism. But “The Times” and “The Daily Mail” receive comparatively mild treatment beside the Government, and especially the “Honours List” - the latter of which never wanted it more urgently than it does to-day. As for governments - well, as one of the characters remarks, “Government’s first duty is to live.” And, after all, criticism of the Government is the only thing which keeps it from falling asleep. As someone remarks upon the Royalty stage, “enlightened and patriotic people do not want the Government to fall, but want it to be afraid lest it might” which is much the same thing! For not even governments can fall asleep on the edge of a precipice, as it were. These witty remarks keep the comedy, and incidentally the audience, very much awake. It really matters very little if in unravelling the plot the people in front become almost bewildered to death. They are not watching so much as listening, and what they hear is some of the cleverest, most amusing dialogue that even Mr. Arnold Bennett has ever given us. The Title will be a huge success, because what the characters remark about things in general and a few things like “honours” and governments and newspaper proprietors in particular is what the audience have been wanting to say themselves and didn’t know how to' (The Tatler, 14 August 1918). ‘Farcical comedy is still holding its sway in the London theatres, despite all that has been said concerning the coming popularity of the play with a purpose … Where is the play with the purpose! Still in the imaginary stage unless one is to believe that patriotism as represented by “The pick of the Navy,” “Jolly Jack Tar,” “The Freedom of the Seas,” etc, is the only purpose that was ever meant to be portrayed. Nor can the biting satire of Arnold Bennett in “The Title” be said to fulfil any really useful purpose. No, the time of the problem play is not yet’ (Halifax Evening Courier, 8 January 1919). 'The Title, which celebrated its 250th performance a week ago, will finish its successful career at the Royalty on Saturday, March 15’ (The Stage, 27 February 1919). However, the last advertisements for The Title at the Royalty Theatre were for Saturday 22 March 1919. The play was also reviewed in the following newspapers found in the British Newspaper Archive (BNA): Western Daily Press, 22 July 1918; Hull Daily Mail, 24 July 1918; The Stage, 25 July 1918 (illegible in the BNA); The Sketch, 31 July 1918; Truth, 14 August 1918; The Sketch, 21 August and 25 September 1918; and The Sphere, 21 September 1918.
3 Mar 1919 Theatre Royal, Leamington SpaProfessional
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‘The sale of honours to save from destruction a Government tottering on the brink of a precipice is held up to burning ridicule in “The Title,” which is being played the Theatre Royal for the whole of the week. The full venom of a scathing satire is launched point-blank at the heads of the busy-bodies at Whitehall, who to make the list of knighthoods, baronetcies and peerages presentable to the public, bestow on one or two men of sterling worth the same honours as are given to wartime profiteers and grasping munition makers, whose names, as Mr. Culver, the patriotic energetic Briton of the play expressively says, “Stink like rotten fish.” The action of the play tales place in an ordinary upper-class household, which consists of a Government official and his wife, a brilliant daughter and a son, “home for the hols.” The conversation, in fact the whole background of the play, strikes a note which seems too human to be possible upon the stage. Everything is homely, natural and unaffected, although Hildegarde, the daughter, proves to be the most brilliant journalist in London, and under a nom de plume attacks the Government virulently on the deplorable sale of honours. Then the bombshell bursts: her own father is offered a baronetcy. The ensuing scenes, in which Mr. Culver is torn between his wife’s entreaties to accept the doubtful “honour” and his children’s efforts to persuade him to refuse it, are a masterpiece of humorous production. Working upon an excellent plot, the author, Mr. Arnold Bennett, has introduced a lively repartee which convulses the audience. The production, itself, is excellently enacted by a high-class company. Mr. Stanley Turnbull takes the part of Mr. Culver, with Miss Louie Pounds as his wife, Miss May Ward plays Hildegarde Culver, Mr. E. Watts Philips, John, the youth from school, and Mr. Harvey Adams, the part of Mr. Tranter [sic - Tranto], a young newspaper proprietor. The play is proceeded [sic] by a one act comedy entitled “Postal Orders”’ (Leamington Spa Courier, 7 March 1919).
8 Mar 1919 St Mary's Hall, OxfordAmateur
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'The playing of women’s parts in the theatre by men or boys has all sorts of historical sanctions and precedents, and at our own doors Mr. Lynam’s pupils have often shown us how cleverly the necessary illusion can be created … The playing of that most modern and up-to-date of comedies - it is a satire on the War Government and the muddied fountain of honour - Mr. Arnold Bennett’s “The Title,” by Somerville students without aid from mere men, in St. Mary’s Hall last week-end, was an overbold venture, even though there was a good cause to be benefited by the proceeds. As a matter of fact, the sparkle and glow of Mr. Bennett’s excellent dialogue, and the atmosphere of sly satire on Press and Parliament which permeates it, were very imperfectly realised. Still, the packed audiences, which included many undergraduates, seemed to heartily enjoy the performances, and the actors were very cordially applauded. The cast included Miss Cicely Williams as Mr. Culver, Miss Eva D. Spicer as Mrs. Culver, Miss Hilda M. Denney as Hildegarde, Miss Marjorie Hobhouse as John, and Miss Beryl Robinson as Tranto. The single scene, despite the lack of proper staging accommodation, was very prettily set’. Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, Friday 14 March 1919.
10 Mar 1919 Theatre Royal, PortsmouthProfessional
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‘Patrons of the Theatre Royal will have a treat next week, when Arnold Bennett’s comedy “The Title,” will be presented by Messrs. Vedrenne and Eadie Co. This brilliant satire is making a great success at the Royalty Theatre, where it has been running since last July. The story is concerned with the bestowal of a title upon a war-time controller, and the diverse reception of this honour by the various members of his household affords full scope for Mr. Bennett’s analytical powers. The struggle between the controller who does not want the title, and his wife, who does, really forms the basis of this witty comedy. The cast includes Stanley Turnbull and Louie Pounds, with E. Watts Phillips, Harvey Adams, Sam Lysons, May Ward, Frances Waring and Joey Giddins’. Hampshire Telegraph, 7 March 1919.
17 Mar 1919 Theatre and Opera House, CheltenhamProfessional
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‘Satire when staged needs to be in capable and practised hands, these conditions being fulfilled in Messrs. Vedrenne and Eadie’s Company, a delightful representation is given at the Theatre this week of Arnold Bennett’s three act domestic comedy, The Title. The play is a long-drawn-out protest against the traffic or supposed traffic in “honours .” It must be confessed, however, that the parties who make the protest have not only chosen the wrong occasion - for if anyone deserves recognition for his services to the nation it surely is the Mr. Culver of the play - but they are also somewhat eccentric in the lengths to which they are prepared to go to show not merely their contempt but their abomination of all such trifles. In fact, the only really sensible member of this curious family is Mrs. Culver, who, her vanity notwithstanding, we are all pleased to find gains her end at last, and with it the coveted title to be called “My Lady.” The author has put a lot of smart things in the mouths of the people whom Mrs. Culver has to fight, and doubtless they are all true. But our sympathy is with the little woman, who comes up smiling after every knockdown (metaphoric) blow administered by her matter of fact spouse, her intellectual daughter, and her democratic son ... The Title is preceded by a one-act comedy by Roland Pertwee, entitled Postal Orders, which is a skit on the manner in which impatient customers are supposed to be served at the Post Office counter by the lady members of the staff' ( Cheltenham Looker-On, 22 March 1919). An article on the Cheltenham Opera House remarked, ‘there is a distinct charm in a small and snug Theatre [such as the Opera House], particularly for the performance of such plays as Arnold Bennett’s The Title, when every gesture and inflection of voice and tiny mannerism must be observed in detail to get the full flavour of the wit and satire with which such a play abounds’ (Cheltenham Looker-On, 30 August 1919).
24 Mar 1919 New Theatre, CambridgeProfessional
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‘“Why do decent people take honours?” That is question which was asked last night at the New Theatre, and is in the mind of many people. If you want to know the answer - the real answer - worked up in the very best Arnold Bennett dialogue, you must not fail to see “The Title” presented by Messrs. Vedrenne and Eadie’s Company. It is a type of play which should certainly not be missed by any patron of the New Theatre. It is described as a comedy, and is all that a comedy should be. It always interesting; many of the “lines” are extraordinarily clever; at times it is absolutely brilliant; it is full of wit - not coarse vulgarity, but real genuine English humour - and what is perhaps even best all, it gives you something to think about ... The performance will be repeated to-night and Wednesday afternoon and evening’ (Cambridge Daily News, 25 March 1919).
27 Mar 1919 New Theatre, OxfordProfessional
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The Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, 21 March 1919, advertised at the New Theatre on Thursday 27 March for three nights only the Vedrenne and Eadie Company, including Stanley Turnbull and Louie Pounds, in the great Royalty Theatre success, The Title, a comedy in 3 acts, by Arnold Bennett. Also, ‘For the second first half [of next week] Mr. Arnold Bennett’s latest comedy, “The Title,” will be given. It is in the hands of a Vedrenne and Eadie company, who were responsible for “Milestones” and “Billeted.” Such well-known favourites as Mr. Stanley Turnbull and Miss Louie Pounds are in the cast’ (Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, 21 March 1919).
31 Mar 1919 Gaiety Theatre, ManchesterProfessional
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The Alderley & Wilmslow Advertiser, 28 March 1919, advertised at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, from Monday 31 March for two weeks the Vedrenne and Eadie Company, including Louie Pounds and Stanley Turnbull, in The Title by Arnold Bennett, preceded by Postal Orders by Roland Pertwee. ‘“The Title,” which is produced to Manchester audiences for the first time [at the Gaiety], is a sparkling comedy in which Arnold Bennett is seen at his best. The dialogues are simply brilliant, and having obtained such a first-rate subject as the dispensation of titles for his satyr, the author plays with it to the finest possible effect' (Manchester Evening News, 1 April 1919). ‘Arnold Bennett’s three-act comedy, “The Title,” delighted the patrons [at the Gaiety, Manchester] on Monday with its sarcastic references to titles and the home influence of the fair sex' (The Stage, 3 April 1919).
14 Apr 1919 Opera House, HarrogateProfessional
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The Stage, 10 and 17 April 1919, lists The Title as On Tour from 14 April at the O.H., Harrogate.
21 Apr 1919 Lyric Opera House, HammersmithProfessional
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The Stage, 17 April 1919, lists The Title as On Tour from 21 April at the Lyric O.H., Hammersmith.
28 Apr 1919 Shakespeare Theatre, LiverpoolProfessional
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‘“You Staggering Woman,” says Mr. Culver to his wife towards the close of the last act of “The Title,” and to this end; to the end of proving that woman is still as staggering as on that day when she inveigled Adam, Mr. Arnold Bennett has devoted three acts of amusing and witty dialogue, framed in a general atmosphere of pointed satire. Or perhaps it was merely to prove that the English father and mother and the English family are very conventional after all, apart from their profession, even when the father is a pillar of the government and the daughter an iconoclastic journalist. Or perhaps it is to prove nothing at all, but simply to indulge Mr. Bennett’s whimsy of tilting at the traffic in the titles and at newspaper proprietors, and at public and political life in general, the while he entertains his audience hugely with his comedy situations and his brilliant and shafted wit' (Birkenhead News, 30 April 1919). ‘The sugar-coated satire and good-natured raillery of “The Title” provide an intellectual refreshment all the more enjoyable by the exclusion of acidity or cynicism. Arnold Bennett’s brilliant play bristles with incisive thrusts and sallies' (The Stage, 1 May 1919).
5 May 1919 Theatre Royal, BournemouthProfessional
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‘Arnold Bennett in his most satirical vein is seen at the Theatre Royal this week. “The Title” is a play intensely amusing, but by no means non-educational. How to obtain, how to lose, and how to escape from a title appearing upon the New Year’s Honours’ List is strikingly shown, although whether such remarkable samples of humanity found knighthoods and baronetcies thrown at them as suggested in the play must be left to the intelligence of our readers. Nevertheless, it is a clever play, cleverly written and, what is equally important, cleverly acted' (Bournemouth Graphic, 9 May 1919). ‘A comedy of real merit Arnold Bennett’s “The Title” was presented at the Theatre Royal, Bournemouth, on Monday evening, for the first time in the town by Messrs. Vedrenne and Eadie’s company, and has been showing this week to large audiences. The piece comes from the Royalty Theatre and the company includes Stanley Turnbull and Louie Pounds. Little need be said of the play for it is well known that in it the author brings out some caustic comments on the compiling of the honours list and other things as well. One is kept in roars of laughter at the amusing situations and the up-to-date humour with which the piece is crammed' (Bournemouth Guardian, 10 May 1919).
12 May 1919 Devonshire Park Theatre, EastbourneProfessional
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‘Opening with a full house on Monday night [at the Devonshire Park Theatre], Messrs Vedrenne and Eadie’s company scored an immediate and pronounced success in Arnold Bennett’s brilliant three-act comedy The Title. Although punctuated with dramatic situations, generally of a whimsical and ludicrous nature, the production is less a play than a satirical argument amongst cleverly-drawn social types. In a good-humoured, but scathless [sic] and relentless spirit, the author exposes the easy manner in which honours are sometimes distributed, and introduces a good deal of topical matter in a bantering and ironical vein ... If rather unduly diffuse, the dialogue is nearly always original and sparkling, and the audience are kept in merry mood throughout' (Eastbourne Chronicle, 17 May 1919).
19 May 1919 Theatre Royal, BrightonProfessional
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‘Miss Louie Pounds and Mr Stanley Turnbull are here [the Theatre Royal, Brighton] with the Vedrenne and Eadie production of Mr. Arnold Bennet’s “The Title,” which proves a great attraction’ (The Era, 21 May 1919). Noted in The Stage, 22 May 1919.
26 May 1919 Gaiety Theatre, HastingsProfessional
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‘Arnold Bennett’s very successful comedy, “The Title,” is paying its first visit to the Gaiety Theatre during this week, and is being very warmly received. It is a delightful piece, beautifully written and perfectly acted, and although the author’s satirical wit is exercised at the expense of the Government in the buying and selling of honours, yet it cannot fail to please, the treatment of the subject being so excellent. The Company give a perfect interpretation of this comedy' (Bexhill-On-Sea Observer, 31 May 1919).
2 Jun 1919 Pleasure Gardens Theatre, FolkestoneProfessional
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‘Apart from dominating plays which all critics keep at the back of their minds for purposes of comparison and, perhaps, standardisation, we do not easily recall a work which flashes more brightly with epigramatic [sic] wit than does Mr. Arnold Bennett’s “The Title,” produced this week at the Pleasure’ Gardens Theatre. The usual danger with super brilliancy is that it quickly burns itself out. But that cannot be said of “The Title.” The verbal fire is as dazzling in the last few lines as in the opening and the most pregnant parts of the play. Those who cannot quite follow the scintillation of thought as expressed in masterly language call it “wordy.” So it is, since words were given us to disguise our thoughts: but it is the wordiness which appeals to those who love a battle of wits and glory in the clash of intellects. “The Title” is a mordant satire on the granting of titles. What, in very fact, does a baronetcy or a knighthood imply? A nation’s honour to one who, by true merit, deserves that honour, or a potent weapon to arrest acute criticism, to placate enmity, or to do the expected thing? The point is debatable, and Mr. Arnold Bennett debates it with the skill of a keen observer and a deep reader of French literature. His knowledge of the profundities of femininity he(?) also betrays in planning her infinite scheme of attack' (Folkestone Express, Sandgate, Shorncliffe & Hythe Advertiser, 7 June 1919).
15 Mar 1920 Repertory Theatre, PlymouthProfessional
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‘Arnold Bennet’s plays are immensely popular at the Repertory Theatre, Plymouth, and the first production locally next week of that gifted author’s comedy, “The Title,” from the Royalty Theatre, London, should prove a great source of delight to all playgoers. Mr. Bennett’s latest work will be found to be as charming, as pungently humorous, and as delightfully satiric as anything he has written; its plot all concerns the objection of Mr. Culver to the receipt of a title, which a grateful Government is desirous of bestowing on him for services rendered his country during the war; of his wife’s insistence that he shall accept the honour offered him, and his son and his daughter’s very strong objection to owning a father with a “handle to his name.” Out of this slender idea Mr. Bennett has evolved a comedy which is refreshingly as it is delicate and laughter provoking. Miss Marie Robson and Mr. Frederick Victor will be seen in the principal parts; Mr. Bernard Merefield and Miss Marion Boughton will play the son and daughter respectively, whilst Miss Maud Garth figures as Mr. Culver’s secretary, Miss Starkey’ (Western Morning News, 13 March 1920). Reviewed in the Western Morning News, 16 March 1920: ‘Mr. Arnold Bennet’s delicious satire is never so barbed as when it is winged with humour, and in the comedy, “The Title,” which was presented at the Repertory Theatre last evening, the events of the past five years are shown to have provided his pen with ample scope for kindly, but pointed, ridicule’.
14 Jan 1921 ?, BathAmateur
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‘The programme for the first meeting of the Bath Playgoers’ Society, in 1921, provided for a visit from the kindred organisation at Bristol, whose members have from the first taken a warm interest in the doings of the younger society in this city. The play selected for reading was Arnold Bennett’s three-act comedy, “The Title.” The cast was: Mr. Culver, Mr. G. W. Boyd; Mrs Culver, Mrs. Welch; Hildegarde and John Culver (their children), Miss Welch and Mr. S. Gedye; Tranto, Mr. J. F. Holloway; Sampson Straight, Mr. R. H. Russell; and Miss Starkey, Miss Ostler. The stage directions were given by Mr. Harold Downs, the hon. secretary of the Bath Society. Before the reading commenced, Mr. Holloway explained that the play to be read that evening was really a war play and was first produced in 1918’. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, Saturday 15 January 1921. The date shown for the reading is guessswork.
25 Mar 1921 Portobello Higher Grade School, PortobelloAmateur
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‘On Friday evening two hundred persons witnessed a performance of “The Title,” a three-act comedy by Arnold Bennett, which was given in the hall of Portobello Higher Grade School by the Portobello Players, all of whom are members of the Former Pupils’ Club of that school. The one responsible for the production was Mr T. Mitchell. and he is to be congratulated on his choice of principals and the successful manner in which the entertainment went off. In Miss H. L. Cavaye he found an excellent “Mrs Culver,” a very youthful looking mother of a girl of twenty, it must be admitted. but she acted the part to the manner born, and the passages between her and her husband over the title were the feature of the evening. Mr Cecil A. F. Cairns filled the role of the husband, and his acting was most natural. “Hildegarde Culver” was impersonated by Miss Peggy Gunn in a very creditable manner. In the parts of “John Culver” and “Trant” [sic] Mr John Rathbone and Mr Bryce Nisbet combined with the others in maintaining the high standard of the acting. Miss Eva Baillie’s “Miss Starkey” was good, while the parts of the “Parlourmaid” and “Sampson Straight” were in the capable hands of Miss Annie Ritchie and Mr Tom Rodgers. The performance was repeated on Saturday evening, when the success of the previous evening was repeated. On this occasion, however, all the principal parts were in new hands, with the exemption of that of “Parlourmaid,” in which Miss Annie Ritchie again appeared. The names of those who attained success were - Miss Eleanor Donald, Miss Catherine Arthur, Miss Beth Brown, Mr Chas. Watt, Mr Andrew Royal, Mr Walter Wyatt, and Mr Ian Paterson. At the conclusion, Mr T. Mitchell thanked the audience for the generous patronage that had been given, and announced future attractions. On Saturday night the playing of the incidental music by Mr J. A. Smith was greatly admired’. Midlothian Journal, Friday 1 April 1921.
29 Jan 1923 ?, LeedsAmateur
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‘Eight members of the Leeds University Choral and Dramatic Society last night presented Mr. Arnold Bennett’s war-time comedy called “The Title.” The leading characters are engaged discussing from various standpoints the bestowal of honours ... It seems very hard upon poor Mr. Culver, with his stern, implacable outlook, that the author should thrust into his hands the offer of a baronetcy, and that he should have to struggle through two acts amid the contentions of a divided household on the question whether he should accept or refuse ... Some of the protestations are slightly artificial, and one is apt to get tired of whole of the baronetcy business, and to feel that the comedy is wearing rather thin ... On the whole the characters were cleverly impersonated, but there was far too much need of the services of the prompter, and the prompting was not, as a rule, taken up very readily. The performance consequently lacked finish, as several of the impersonators had recurring lapses. The chief exponents were Mr. J. Symonds, Mr. W. A. Sewell, Miss M. Dyson, Miss D. M. Hardaker, and Mr. L. Godlove; and the characterisation was in each case consistent and interesting’. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 30 January 1923.
7 Nov 1923 Gables Theatre, SurbitonUnknown
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‘The project to provide Surbiton with a permanent repertory theatre, to be known at the Mirror Theatre, deserves success if only for the fact that the district is but scantily served in the way of theatrical entertainment. In a foreword to his programme, Mr. Michael Raghan, the director of the company, states that no large financial backing is behind their enterprise; the venture to produce plays of merit by known and unknown authors must stand or fall according to public support. The company are temporarily housed at the Gables Theatre (opposite the down platform of Surbiton Station), where the season began on Wednesday evening (November 7) with a performance of Arnold Bennett’s “The Title” ... The performance of “The Title” was fair, but the voice of the prompter was too frequently heard. Mr. Robert English had the correct conception of Mr. Culver, and Miss Evelyn Cecil was good as Mrs. Culver. Miss Renée Rubens played naturally as the young journalist, and the young brother was unaffectedly done by Mr. Mathew Norgate; while Mr. Charles Koop was well suited to the part of the newspaper proprietor. Miss Marjorie Clarke Jervoise was the Miss Starkey, and Mr. Michael Raghan the Sampson Straight, the cast being completed by Miss Mona Crofte as the Parlourmaid. There was a good audience’. The Stage, 15 November 1923.
1 Apr 1925 Ben Greet Academy, LondonAmateur
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‘A varied and interesting, though very lengthy programme was presented at the students’ performance at the Ben Greet Academy, Bedford Street given on April 1. This comprised the first act of Gerhart Hauptmann’s fairy play, “The Sunken Bell,” in C. H. Meltzer’s English version; the first act of Arnold Bennett’s satirical comedy, “The Title”; [and other items] … Miss Julia Hart … (most deceptively made up) played most humorously as young John Culver in “The Title,” in which the bright lad’s parents were represented passably by Mr. [Charles] Nield, much too deliberate of utterance, and Miss Florence Herbert, and his journalist sister, Hildegarde Culver, and her newspaper magnate-wooer had excellent treatment from charming Miss Iris Darbyshire and Mr. [Arnold] Dobson’. The Stage, 9 April 1925.
22 Feb 1926 South Street Hall, SheffieldAmateur
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‘The Sheffield University Dramatic Society, at the South Street Hall, last night, made the most of the many humorous situations in Arnold Bennett’s play, “The Title.” The playing was on the whole smooth, the promptings few, and the acting, generally, good. Nearly all the players, however, broke three cardinal rules, lowering the voice to a point of inaudibility, making movements without reason, and using their hands too much. These faults are easily rectified, and the production deserves better audiences than that of last night' (Sheffield Independent, Tuesday 23 February 1926). ‘Under the direction of the Sheffield Repertory Company, this week, the Sheffield University Dramatic Society are performing “The Title “ by Mr. Arnold Bennett in the South Street Hall. Whenever Mr. Bennett intends to be instructive he usually succeeds in being more amusing than learned. This accounts for his popularity. His “Literary Taste” and “How to live on 24 hours a day” are not at all strenuous. as their titles might make them appear, but the sort of thing one reads in bed, in order that the sun may not go down on our wrath. “The Title” is highly entertaining. It contains the usual thrust at the dishonourable way in which many titles are presented, and the usual things are said about journalists: things which are such caricatures that when one has laughed over them one forgets them. The principal conflict between papa, who will not have a title when it is offered to him, and mamma, who insists on being called “my lady,” “for the dear children’s sake” is interwoven with a subsidiary diverting “mystery” plot as to the authorship of some political articles. The play is exceedingly well presented. Not one of the eight performers failed to adopt the psychology of the characters, which were interpretated [sic] unaffectedly. One cannot pick out any one for special distinction, the team was so good. The cast, in the order of appearance, was as follows: Hildegarde Culver (Rita Horan); John Culver (David N. Ryalls); Tranto (N. Fieldhouse); Mrs. Culver (F. Marjorie Ward); Mr. Culver (J. Stuart Hawnt); Parlourmaid (Dorothy Outhwaite); Miss Starkey (Nora Patten), and Sampan Straight (T. Edward Allibone)’ (South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough & Swinton Times, Friday 26 February 1926).
29 Nov 1927 Barnfield Hall, ExeterAmateur
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‘The Exeter Drama League last evening gave an excellent performance of Arnold Bennett’s comedy, “The Title,” at the Barnfield Hall, Exeter, but the attendance was not large as the performance merited. The characters were ably sustained as follows: Tranto, Kenneth S. Spreadbury; Hildegarde Culver, Anna Innes; John Culver, Harold Gayton; Mrs. Culver, Elsie Morgan Edwards; Mr. Culver, Percy Boddington; Parlourmaid, Vivienne Sturdy; Miss Starkey, Elspeth M. Bradford; and Sampson Straight, J. Reed Cumming. Mr. J. Reed Cumming was the producer, Mr. Ernest Pitts the stage manager, and Mr. C. Osman the prompter. An efficient orchestra, under Mr. W. Pursey (flute), comprised Mrs. H. Mann and Mr. Percy Nicholls (violins), Mr. C. Strong (viola), and Miss D Maddock and Mr. E. Q. Chick (‘cellos). Miss Adeline H. Curtis was the accompanist’. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 30 November 1927.
13 Feb 1928 Playhouse, JesmondProfessional
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The Newcastle Journal, Saturday 11 February 1928, lists among ‘next week’s stage attractions’: ‘At the Playhouse, Jesmond, Arnold Bennett’s play, “The Title,” will be performed by the Newcastle Repertory Company. Originally produced in London at the Royalty Theatre, “The Title” is a satire of war-time honours lists. Richard Cuthbert will play the part of Mr Culver, and also in the cast will be Enid Cameron as Mrs Culver, Winifred Thompson as Hildegarde, Fletcher Allison as Mr Tranto, and J. B. Scott as the mysterious Sampson Straight’. ‘Honours being given to save the life of the Government, and often, unfortunately, to not very desirable people, Mr Culver (an eminently decent and respectable man), has been offered a title so that he, with a few others, might act as leaven to the List. And so “a baronet or not a baronet?” is the problem which he is set to answer in “The Title,” which is presented at the Playhouse this week. Of course Culver hasn’t any doubts as to what he ought to do, nor, really, has Mrs Culver; but she would so like to hear the parlourmaid say “Me Lady.” Mr Arnold Bennett has made much amusing satire out of this simple situation, and has found in it material for many a bright shaft' (Newcastle Journal, 14 February 1928).
30 Mar 1928 Garden Suburb Free Church Hall, HampsteadAmateur
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‘For their last production of the present season, the Touchstone Players chose “The Title,” a comedy by Arnold Bennett, which they performed to large audiences in the Garden Suburb Free Church Hall, on Friday and Saturday. The cast is limited to eight characters, and it was tribute more to the acting than the author that the audience did not tire of most of them long before the first act was over'. Hendon and Finchley Times, Friday 6 April 1928.
14 Nov 1928 Bernina Café, BathAmateur
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‘Arnold Bennett’s three-act comedy, “The Title,” was read by members of the Bath Playgoers’ Society on Wednesday in the Bernina Cafe before an appreciative audience. Mr. Harold Downs (hon. secretary) prefaced the reading by remarking that Bennett’s best work was as novelist rather than playwright. Nevertheless, it was interesting and useful to see how Bennett the novelist applied his literary skill in playmaking. The cast was:- Mr. Culver, Mr. Harold Downs; Mrs. Culver, Miss Isabel Chisman; Hildegarde Culver, Miss L. B. Clarke; John Culver, Mr. Michael Brosnan; Tranto, Mr. R. A. Rawlings; Miss Starkey, Miss Doris Cox; Sampson Straight, Mr. F. J. Matthews; Parlourmaid and stage directions, Miss Margaret Elwood. At the conclusion Capt. A. W. Annand (Chairman of the Committee) spoke appreciatively of the all-round excellence of the reading, and expressed the members’ regret that Mrs. Downs (producer) was unable to be present owing to indisposition. Mr. Downs said that before the reading took place he did not wish to give a lead to criticism of the play. Members would probably agree, having heard the reading, that it was essentially a play of the theatre with flashes wit and smart lines, but weak in characterisation and with little of special significance in the treatment of the theme. It was, however, the type of play that readers could easily interpret in different ways, and from which much illumination of life could be obtained’. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, Saturday 17 November 1928.
3 Dec 1929 Pavilion Theatre, PenzanceAmateur
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‘The St. Ives Dramatic Society, whose fame has spread well beyond the bounds of their native town, were at the Pavilion, Penzance, on Tuesday evening before an appreciative audience. The play they produced on this occasion was “The Title,” a very clever comedy from the versatile pen of Arnold Bennett. Glancing down the list of past performances, it is noticed that this is the first time the Society has produced one of Bennett’s plays, which must prove extremely difficult for amateurs. In this three-act comedy a great deal of clever acting must be employed before the wit and humour of the play becomes apparent, and, needless to say, the St. Ives company rose to the occasion. Outstanding amongst the cast was E. S. Darmardy, whose remarkable acting was greatly enjoyed by the audience. In his role of the father refusing “the title,” he frequently drew applause. Dorothy Meade and John Cocking as the children, were also good in the portrayal of their respective roles. The cast on the whole was a good one, and Fred Bottomley had a small part which he did well. Others who sustained their roles well were: Therese Jackson, J. M. Findlay, Janet Lodge and Janie Hollow. The stage managers were Miss Freda Paynter and Col. J. Findlay, D.S.O. The orchestra, under the direction Mr. Walter Barnes, played during the acts’. Cornishman, Thursday 5 December 1929.
22 Jan 1930 ?, HullAmateur
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'The play given on Wednesday night [by the Hull Playgoers’ Society] was “The Title,” by Arnold Bennett, an amusing comedy, the reading of which was arranged by Mrs Munroe Clark. Mr F. R. Bell read Mr Culver, Mrs Culver was given by Mrs James Downs; Miss Millicent Jones read Hildegard Culver, Mr Derek Harris, John Culver; Mr Munroe Clark, Mr Tranto; Miss Constance Clark, Mrs Starkey; and Mr Edgar Appleton, Mr Sampson Straight’. Hull Daily Mail, Thursday 23 January 1930.
7 Feb 1939 ?, RotherhamAmateur
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‘Rotherham Playgoers are to be congratulated upon their excellent performance last night of Arnold Bennett’s three-act comedy “The Title.” It would be foolish to say that the acting was faultless, but certainly critics found a good deal more to praise than to condemn. The stage manager, Mr. D. Dale, must have been on the alert for defects that might have been overlooked during rehearsals, and the repeat performances, to-night and to-morrow, will be the better for the alterations that he made in the lighting arrangement during the second interval. Once again Jack R. King, stands out in the cast. He gives a fine characterisation of “Culver,” the poor distracted Government official who is torn between principles and loyalty to his family when he is offered a baronetcy, and whose private secretary even claims his consideration. A mastery of facial expression such as he possesses is essential to the role. Margorie Watson plays the part of a typical wife as Mrs. Culver and has to act in a manner that most husbands would agree typifies the woman, but her task is not an easy one and she makes fine work of it. Clement J. Rees - playing a juvenile rôle for a change - and Winnie Hubbard are well suited to their parts as the two children, and Clifford Gowman puts his best into the rôle of Tranto. It is a pity that Arnold Bennett did not give the private secretary more to do, for one would have liked to have seen more of Gladys M. Jarvis. Donald Dale plays Sampson Straight, the impostor, and Helen Sipson is the parlourmaid. The play is produced by George Price’ (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 8 February 1939). ‘[Two weeks previously] Rotherham Playgoers gave a sound production of “The Title,” Arnold Bennett’s comedy, which I last saw many years ago at the old Sheffield Repertory Theatre. The first act, somewhat inevitably, was slow, but thereafter it was slick-paced work, with hilarious “cat-and-mouse” scenes between Marjorie Watson and Jack King as Mrs. and Mr. Culver. Producer George Price and Stage Manager Donald Dale had contrived to obtain plenty of playing space without making the scene seem bare, and on such a small stage this is an achievement’ (Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Wednesday 22 February 1939).
28 Feb 1948 [No Theatre Listed], Professional
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‘In the broadcast of Arnold Bennett’s comedy “The Title,” which is the play for this week’s “Saturday Night Theatre” in the Home Services, all the parts are being presented by members of the B.B.C. Repertory Company. Laidman Browne plays Mr. Culver, the part taken in the original production of 1918 by C. Aubrey Smith: Gladys Young the part of Mrs. Culver, originally taken by Eva Moore; a new-corner to the Repertory Company, Joan Hart, plays Hildegarde Culver; and the cast also includes. Basil Jones, Richard Williams, Charles Lefeaux. Denise Bryer and Olive Gregg. The adaptation is by Cynthia Pughe, and the production by Felix Felton’ (Staffordshire Sentinel, Tuesday 24 February 1948). The cast was Mr Culver, Laidman Browne; John Culver, Basil Jones; Tranto, Richard Williams; Sampson Straight, Charles Lefeaux; Mrs Culver, Gladys Young; Hildegarde Culver, Joan Hart; Miss Starkey, Denise Bryer; Parlourmaid, Olive Gregg’ (Issue 1271 (bbc.co.uk)).
21 May 1950 [No Theatre Listed], Professional
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‘Arnold Bennett’s comedy, “The Title,” is to be televised on Sunday, with a repeat on Thursday. The scene is laid in the home of Mr. Culver and his family in the year 1918. They are faced with a problem - shall he, or shall he not, accept a Baronetcy? Raymond Huntley and Jill Desmond play the parts of Mr. and Mrs. Culver’ (Lincolnshire Echo, Thursday 18 May 1950). ‘Ray Jackson will be playing the part of John Culver in the version of Arnold Bennett’s comedy, “The Title,” which is to be seen next Sunday evening and again on the following Thursday. This is the part in which Leslie Howard made his second appearance in the West End at the age of 25, when the play was first produced at the Royalty in 1918. Jill Esmond is to take the part of Mrs. Culver, a character created by her mother, Eva Moore, in the 1918 production. Harold Clayton is producing, and the company will include Raymond Huntley, Peggy Simpson, John Benson, Roddy Hughes, Betty Cooper and Violet Merrett’ (The Stage, 18 May 1950). The cast was Mrs Culver, Jill Esmond; Mr Culver, Raymond Huntley; Hildegarde Culver, Peggy Simpson; John Culver, Ray Jackson; Tranto, John Benson; Sampson Straight, Roddy Hughes; Miss Starkey, Betty Cooper; Parlourmaid Viola Merrett (Issue 1388 (bbc.co.uk)).