Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This play is a strong attack on the squalor and unwholesomeness, the result of ignorance, of a section of the lowest class, and on those like slum landlords who are said to profit by it. Sexual disease is dealt with, but only as one of many evils. We are introduced to the Martin family. The father is away fighting. The mother drinks; the young son, Ben, gambles and keeps bad company; Tilda, a daughter is flashy and inclined to go wrong; there is a child, Sally, and a baby dying of consumption. Another daughter, Mary, a school teacher not living at home, is the only good member of the family. In spite of the fact that Ben and Tilda are 'on munitions' and with their pay and the mother's allowance the family is quite well-to-do, they live in the utmost squalor. In the first act the baby, too long neglected, is seen by the doctor and his directions are disobeyed. In Act II the baby is dead. Sally, the child, is found by the doctor to be affected in the eyes by gonorrhoea, caught from Tilda by using the same towel. He questions Tilda also about this and finds she knew she had the disease and thought nothing of it, and is going to have a baby - who would probably be born blind. Sally and Tilda are sent to proper institutions and we hear Littlemore of them. Ben is arrested for burglary. Meanwhile the good parson, Hastings, in love with Mary, is induced by the doctor to stand for the Borough Council against Scarsbrick, the landlord, who uses his position on it to prevent reform. Scarsbrick gives Mrs Martin drink and promises to get her son off if she spreads a vile scandal, that Hastings is the cause of Tilda's trouble. In Act III Ben is sent to prison and Mrs Martin, furious, gives Scarsbrick away. There is a chance of happiness for Hastings and Mary at the end, but when private Martin, returns on leave it is to find his wife drunk, baby dead, son in prison, and two of his daughters in hospital, and, not unnaturally, asks if that is what he has been fighting for. It is a bitter indictment, forcibly done - I hope exaggerated in its scope -. Some of the language is rough, but that is inevitable. The only part of the play to which exception could be taken at any time, is that dealing with sexual diseases. pp.48, 50 and 51. In my opinion, if that matter is to be allowed to be discusses [sic] at all on the stage, as it is, this is an instance where it should be, because the purpose is good and the matter is introduced as part of it, not sensationally, and as inoffensively, though the language is plain, as the subject permits. Recommended for licence. G. S. Street.

Licensed On: 12 Sep 1918

License Number: 1764

British Library Reference: LCP1918/16

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66198 I


20 Sep 1918 Theatre Royal, SheffieldUnknown Licensed Performance
18 Nov 1918 Theatre Royal, StratfordProfessional