Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This play is called 'Chips' on the script of act I, but it is altered to 'the live wire' on the other acts; so I suppose that is its name. It is a spy play and is entirely free from the sort of suggestiveness found in others by these authors. It is extremely topical and also ingenious. The first two Acts are laid in the country house of Sir Hartley Merstham, the proprietor of various newspapers, the 'Merstham Press' in fact. Staying with him is one of his writers, Christina Anderson, passing as a Scotch woman. Wilfred Carpenter, known as 'Chips', has been invalided out of the Air service and subsequently imprisoned for possessing forged notes. He escapes from a neighbouring prison and comes to the house, where Betty, Merstham's secretary, is his fiancée. What follows is extremely complicated and would take several pages to give in any detail. The upshot is as follows. Chips; passes as Betty's brother and is tracked by one Chester, a leader writer. He in turn suspects Christina of being a spy. He gets on the track of information about Holland's joining the Allies being given by code to the Germans through Merstham's papers. (The situation is further complicated by Merstham's wanting to marry Christina). Well, he is shown up as being Carpenter, but proves that Christina has been communicating in code with a Norwegian and is Norwegian herself. Then, at the very end, it turns out that Christina had merely been trying to find out if her Norwegian husband (a bad lot) was dead, so that she can marry Merstham, and that the real spying was done by Chester, who was really a German in disguise, and had contrived to get Chips sentenced by having the notes put on him. The play ends with Chester's mocking the English for not shutting up naturalized Germans like himself - a popular moral of course. The cleverness of the Play is in the audience having to suspect Christina till the last moment. I do not think there is anything to object to in it. The Mershtham Press of course suggests the Harmswoth Press very definitely, but I do not see any harm in that. Nor do I think there is any objection to the idea of Holland's joining us: it has no possible significance in a play of this sort. If there is, any other piece of news would do as well for the plot. The play begins with an air raid on a small scale and there is firing: I do not think it is meant to be loud, but perhaps a caution might be given. The idea of the spy-hunting papers harbouring a spy among their own writers is amusing.

Licensed On: 20 Aug 1918

License Number: 1730

British Library Reference: LCP1918/15

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66197 C


24 Aug 1918 St Martin's Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance