Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

The objections to this play are its title and certain passages of excessive brutality, made worse by the objects of it being nuns. Otherwise it is on a par with other such melodramas about the war which have been passed. It is to be hoped, however that the stage is nearly surfeited with such stuff. The story is a mixture of the war and 'Ruritania' nonsense. In the 1st act we are in the kingdom of 'Volumbia'. The villain, Otto, a German, murders the king, thus preventing his signing a treaty with England, ruins the Prince and persuades his sister, the Princess, that her English lover Harry is unworthy. Act II begins in a convent, where the Princess is a novice, the Prince and Harry fighting with the English army. Otto arrives and behaves brutally. Later on he has taken the Princess, Elvina, to a lonely house. More brutality. She is rescued by Harry. Then there is business in a German trench and a hospital, during which Harry is righted and Elvina's maid behaves heroically and the thing ends in a convent again with further outrages by Otto and, of course, rescue by the English. The objections are: 1) the title. I do not think that at a time when people's minds are excited by hideous stories - some at least true - of the treatment of Belgian nuns by Germans it is desirable to have posters etc., suggesting these horrors. 2) The first convent scene. I have marked the worst passages of brutality, act II, p.p. 6, 7, 9, 12, and these should be cut. 3) act II scene 3, between Otto and Elvina in the 'devil's house'. I think this should be cut and a more decent scene substituted. Alternatively that the passages marked, act II pg., 22 & 23 should be cut. 4) The final scene in the convent, act IV p.5, - Otto using his whip on a nun: & act IV pages 8, 9, 10 - the murder of the mother superior at the altar, and, immediately afterwards, the tying of the maid to the pillar etc. These passages must be cut. It is doubtful if the scene should take place before an altar at all: personally I should not allow it. With these exceptions the piece is regretfully - Recommended for license. G. S. Street. Additional scene [submitted for licence on 18 July 1915 and intended for performance on 2 August]: A repulsive scene of German brutality. A young Frenchwoman, for refusing to give information, is tortured by German officers: she is burnt by a hot iron. It is true that it is not done on the stage, but it is ordered - p.7 - and is supposed to have been done, p.9. In my opinion this extreme form of working on the feelings of the audience is most unwholesome, and I am not sure if anything quite so bad has been permitted. However, as it is done ‘off’, and is consistent with the rest of this brutal play it may be not worthwhile to prohibit it. G. S. Street.

Researcher's Summary:

The play was originally entitled 'The Nun and the Hun' but renamed following the Examiner's comments. An advertisement for the play in The Stage, on 6 May 1917, noted 'This is not an old play patched up to suit the War element, but an Original Drama with Original Ideas and Situations'. On 27 May, and 'in consequence of numerous inquiries' the producer, Lew Lake, advised 'all whom it may concern that this is not a War Drama in the ordinary sense - No Stolen Plans. No German Spies. No Dished-up Situations from Antiquated Plays. But a New, Original, and Concise Story, portrayed by a Company of Picked Artists' (Stage, 27 May 1915). On 17 June, another advertisement in The Stage described it as 'Not a War Drama in the ordinary sense BUT A HUMAN STORY OF HUMAN PEOPLE'. In late June, the producer estimated that takings for the tour averaged £215 per week (Stage, 24 June 1915), and a month later that they had taken £2,017 gross over the ten weeks of the tour (Stage, 15 July 1915). In early 1916 the tour was planned to be extended and on 9 March 1916 Lew Lake's Dramatic Enterprises advertised in The Stage that the play was 'to let to responsible management for tour' In November 1915 the play appears to be renamed 'The Princess and the Soldier' (The Stage, 18 November 1915). This was reported to be because theatre proprietors had suggested the old title was too melodramatic 'for a Romantic Play of this class' (The Stage, 7 October 1915). The play also continues to be performed under the former title.

Licensed On: 2 Apr 1915

License Number: 3342

British Library Reference: LCP1915/10

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66096 A

Performances

DateTheatreType
5 Apr 1915 Hippodrome, WillesdenUnknown Licensed Performance
12 Apr 1915 Hippodrome, WillesdenProfessional
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The advertisement in The Stage on 15 April 1915 advertises the play as performed at Willesden on 12 March 1915 but based on other advertisements (e.g. Stage, 22 April 1915) this is probably a typo with the correct date being 12 April. The company included Maud Sinden, Graeme Campbell, Katharine Clarke, Eric Morden, Gwendoline Versehoyle, George Marriott Jun., Fred Clifford, Bartell Garth and Dorothy Mullord.
19 Apr 1915 Hippodrome, PutneyProfessional
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Presented by Lew Lake. Advertisement in The Stage (15 April 1915) pronounced it 'A Performance without Flaw or Blemish'
26 Apr 1915 Hippodrome, RotherhitheProfessional
17 May 1915 Empire Theatre, EdmontonProfessional
24 May 1915 Elephant Theatre, LondonProfessional
31 May 1915 New Theatre, CreweProfessional
7 Jun 1915 Opera House, CoventryProfessional
14 Jun 1915 Theatre Royal, WoolwichProfessional
21 Jun 1915 Victoria Theatre, WalthamstowProfessional
28 Jun 1915 Palace Theatre, MaidstoneProfessional
19 Jul 1915 Hippodrome, PoplarProfessional
2 Aug 1915 Grand, BrightonProfessional
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A review in The Stage (5 August 1915) commented that the play was 'enthusiastically received at both performances on Monday. this up-to-date War drama is exceptionally well staged, and the many sensational episodes it contains are made the most of by those responsible for the chief parts'. The parts were played by Maud Linden, Eric Morden, Dorothy Mullord (as Mimi), Adrian Lovett, Bartlett Garth, Francis. B. Oliver, Gwendoline Verschoyle, and Lena Nazeby.
9 Aug 1915 Theatre Royal, ChathamProfessional
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Takings for this weeks' performances totaled £337 with the highest taking on Saturday, followed by Wednesday (The Stage, 19 August 1915)
30 Aug 1915 Lyceum Theatre, NewportProfessional
6 Sep 1915 Princes Theatre, BlackburnProfessional
13 Sep 1915 Brixton Theatre, LondonProfessional
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'After two weeks of revue and joyous frivolity the stage is now again occupied by drama, and very good drama, too, played by Mr Lew Lake's company [...] The fact that the play is military, and deals with a subject in which everyone is interested is no small factor towards its drawing powers, and added to all this the drama is powerfully acted' (The Stage, 17 September 1915)
20 Sep 1915 Prince's Theatre, BradfordProfessional
27 Sep 1915 Theatre Royal, BoltonProfessional
4 Oct 1915 Theatre Royal, DarlingtonProfessional
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'A modern drama which throws an interesting light on the German character' (The Stage, 7 October 1915)
25 Oct 1915 Metropole Theatre, ManchesterProfessional
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Performed under the name 'The Princess and the Soldier'
22 Nov 1915 Theatre Royal, LeedsProfessional
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'Performed under the title 'The Princess and the Soldier'
6 Dec 1915 Royal Hippodrome, SalfordProfessional
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An advertisement in The Stage on 2 December 1915 notes that play with its original title of 'In the Hands of the Hun'.
20 Dec 1915 Osborne Theatre, ManchesterProfessional
27 Dec 1915 Hippodrome, KeighleyProfessional
3 Jan 1916 Hippodrome, MexboroughProfessional
8 Nov 1918 Hippodrome, CroydonProfessional
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Performed under the title 'The Princess and the Soldier'