Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

In idea this is a commonplace play but it is better written than most of its type. Blaine is an eminent capitalist, hard, reserved with repressed emotions and so forth. His son is an improvident and selfish young guardsman. In the first act, they, with Mrs Blaine, are staying with sir Adalbert Schnaltz an anglicized German - and thank heaven, not a spy. The boy flirts with Phoebe Schnaltz. Blaine has previous suspicions confirmed, by accidentally seeing a photograph, that his son is not really his son, but that an old lover of Mrs Blaine’s. In act II this lady, infuriated by Blaine’s refusal to pay Harry, the son's debts, and to consent to his marriage with Phoebe, tells him that this is the case. He asks her, as a condition of his paying, to sign a paper to that effect and she refused. But In Act III, after the war has broken out, Harry is invalided home and Blaine is softened 1) by Mrs Blaine's lying about his parentage and then consenting to sign the paper and 2) by Harry’s proving that he really loves Phoebe and is willing to marry her on nothing. Happy ending. The discussion of Harry’s parentage, though never unpleasantly done, and the business of signing the paper might have offended an audience 20 years ago. But nowadays that would pass as commonplace. It produces a dramatic moment when Mrs Blaine thinks Blaine is going to show Harry the paper and actually he is giving him the receipt of his debt.

Researcher's Summary:

The text of the play is available online at https://archive.org/details/searchlightsplay00vachiala/page/n7/mode/2up. It opened at the Savoy Theatre, London on 11 (not 10) February 1915 and ran until 15 May; The Stage, 22 July 1915, noted that it had been played 105 times. Some critics were pleased that Searchlights was a new play and not another revival (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 13 February 1915; The Sketch, 17 February 1915; Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 20 February 1915). Unusually, during its original run the company paid flying visits to Bristol and Birmingham in March for one-off matinée performances, apparently while playing in London the same evening. The play was taken on tour by Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis in May-November 1915; and by Robert Brasher from at least June, and probably from March, until December 1917. Only a few later performances have been identified. Both Vachell and H.B. Irving, the producer and leading actor at the Savoy, stressed that Searchlights was not a war play since it did not show incidents of war, or soldiers in khaki, spies or pistol shots (The Globe, 6 February 1915; Westminster Gazette, 8 February 1915); and indeed, only the third act is set after the outbreak of war. Rather, the play showed how the war influenced the attitudes and behaviour of the characters. Vachell even denied that Searchlights was ‘a play of the moment’, a phrase often used at this period to describe ‘war plays’ which represented events of immediate topical interest. In the Blaine family, only Harry is directly affected by the war: his experiences during the retreat from Mons lead him to reassess his conduct and his relationship with Phoebe Schmaltz. As the Westminster Gazette, 12 February 1915, commented, ‘we are not shown the interesting process by which the war affected the character of [Vachell’s] personae, but merely the results of the process, and results not necessarily referable to the war. An ordinary financial catastrophe and any bold enterprise might … have been employed instead of the great war to carry out the dramatic scheme’ (similarly The Sketch, 17 February 1915; Sporting Times, 20 February 1915; Birmingham Daily Gazette, 12 March 1915). Presumably repeating publicity lines provided by the touring companies, newspapers reported in 1915 that the play was not a war play although it touched on it (Bournemouth Gazette, 17 July; Bognor Regis Observer, 21 July; Beeston Gazette and Echo, 21 August; and Eastbourne Gazette, 20 October); and in 1917 that the play was a ‘comedy domestic drama’ (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 23 October; Halifax Evening Courier, 6 November; Cheltenham Looker-On, 1 and 8 December; and North Wilts Herald, 7 December). The naturalised German in Searchlights, a sympathetic character who on the outbreak of war renounces his German name, beer and razor blades (a novel touch, commented the Sporting Times, 20 February 1915), may be contrasted with the naturalised Germans in C. B. Fernald’s The Day Before the Day, which opened three months after Searchlights, who profess loyalty to England while secretly working for the Fatherland.

Licensed On: 1 Feb 1915

License Number: 3172

British Library Reference: LCP1915/3

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66089 B

Performances

DateTheatreType
10 Feb 1915 Savoy Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
11 Feb 1915 Savoy Theatre, LondonProfessional
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‘To-night Mr. H. B. Irving takes leave of the variety stage, for as long as may be, and resumes his management of the Savoy Theatre, There, on Thursday night [11 February] ... he will produce a play by Mr. Horace Annesley Vachell, entitled “Searchlights.” He explains that this is “a modern play, technically, a comedy, but with a serious quality. It is not … a war play, as the title may suggest. That is, there is no military aspect nor the sound of a drum. But the war is in the background. It induces the situations of the play, and influences the conduct of the characters' (Globe, 6 February 1915). ‘“Searchlights” has the distinction of being a play that deals with the war, without being a war play; or if it is a war play, at least it has none of the characteristics of the patriotic war plays as we know them. There is only one soldier in it, and he does not wear khaki; there are neither spies, nor pistol shots, nor – despite the title – searchlights! The play is not necessarily even a play of the moment. Mr. Vachell told our representative that it might as appropriately have been produced ten years hence; “though I won’t pretend that this is not the best time – except from the box-office point of view.” The war, in short, is used just as a stupendous earthquake might be used, to show the effect of cataclysm upon the characters and fortunes of a group of people. “My play shows the effect of war upon a certain number of human beings, but the application is universal," said Mr. Vachell ... The subject is treated in the comedy spirit, and Mr. Vachell hopes that there will be a great deal of laughter' (Westminster Gazette, 8 February 1915). '“Searchlights” is not a war play .... Mr. Annesley Vachell’s searchlights are not after aeroplanes. They peer into the souls of his people, make an English hero of the idling Guardsman, though his hopes of glory are dissipated by a sunstroke; soften to penitence the Honourable Mrs. Blaine; reveal an unexpected sympathy and tolerance in Blaine; and happiness opens out for the entire household' (Globe, 12 February 1915). 'A few days before the production interviews with the dramatist were published, from which it appeared that his intention in writing the new piece was to show the effect of the present war upon character. It may be suggested that he has hardly left himself sufficient room for the accomplishment of his task. for only one act of the three takes place after the outbreak of the war; in fact, we are not shown the interesting process by which the war affected the character of his personae, but merely the results of the process, and results not necessarily referable to the war. An ordinary financial catastrophe and any bold enterprise might, it seemed to me, have been employed instead of the great war to carry out the dramatic scheme. This point, however, obviously did not prevent the house from enjoying the play ... One may doubt whether Mr. Vachell has really carried out his idea, and whether the war is essential to his scheme. It is easy for authors to delude themselves on such points, and still easier, perhaps, to avoid making statements to interviewers about their intentions. The fact appears to be that Mr. Vachell has mastered the stage sufficiently to be able to use it very well for the purpose of story-telling, yet not enough at present to have the power of showing his real gift for creating and exhibiting character' (Westminster Gazette, 12 February 1915). ‘“Searchlights” ... was an instant success. It is not necessary to say that it is topical - that is suggested by its title, though, in fact, searchlights are only mentioned quite incidentally in the play, and most people must have come away wondering why Mr. Vachell chose the name at all. But the sympathies of the hour are strongly appealed to, and if Mr. Vachell had an easy task to find his characters and an easier one to make them interpret something of our national sentiment, he has shown great skill in the handling of a pretty romance running side by side with a daring moral theme' (Western Mail, 13 February 1915). ‘Amid the stream of revivals a new play, particularly if it be a strong one, is doubly welcome, and Mr Horace Vachell’s “Searchlights,” produced at the Savoy, has all the elements that appeal to the ordinary theatregoer. Sententious it may be, but with types distinctly drawn, dramatic moments, and a pretty love interest, it is essentially likeable. Although not a war play, it is written round the present world-struggle; the author choosing as his theme the effect of the conflict on the inmates of two households ... As a play it is not a masterpiece, but it is well worth seeing more than once’ (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 13 February 1915). ‘Who could be angry with Mr. H. A. Vachell for giving us so wholly comfortable and pleasing a play? We might wish that he had been stronger in the drama, that his characters had taken on more of that colour which the writer of books who turns to playmaking somehow forgets to impart; but we cannot find it in our hearts to say that the author ... has not given us an agreeable blend of virtue and weakness of the ethics of the naturalised German and the sweet morals of his charming daughter, and has not, all things considered, offered us a pleasing evening’s entertainment ... we have our doubts about Mr. and Mrs. Blaine. However that is their affair; and fortunately “Searchlights” rings down the curtain before we have a chance to peep into the future’ (The People, 14 February 1915). The Era, 17 February 1915 listed the cast as follows: Robert Blaine … H. B. Irving Sir Adalbert Schmaltz … Holman Clark Harry Blaine … Reginald Owen Mr. Firmin … James Lindsay Mr. Moneypenny … Tom Reynolds Fewson … Charles Maunsell Tremlett … E. H. Ruston Hon. Mrs. Blaine … Fay Davis Lady Schmaltz … Kate Bishop Phoebe Schmaltz … Margery Maude Nurse … Lynn Fontaune. ‘… both as novelist and author Mr. Vachell has a gift for keeping the interest sustained in spite of slightness of action and an occasional excess of sentimentality, particularly noticeable in love scenes on the stage, which, though beautifully written, display an intimacy of affection that is apt to jar a little’ (The Era, 17 February 1915). ‘It was a happy thought of Mr. Vachell’s in writing his war play to take for his subject, rather than the new situation created by the war, the effect of the war on an old situation of long standing. For this is, in fact, the way in which the war affects most of us. How often one heard, a year ago, the superior person complacently admitting the decadence of England. That very speaker is now, as likely as not, living the life of a hero in the midst of every conceivable discomfort. The searchlights of war have discovered a patriotism in his heart, the existence of which he would have been the first to deny - a year ago. But if Mr. Vachell may be congratulated on his idea, it is, I fear, impossible to praise the way in which he has worked it out ... Mr. Vachell must forget all he has learnt in the career of a successful novelist before he can write a good drama. There is only one dramatic situation in “Searchlights,” and, coming as late as it does, well on in the third and last act, is, from the point of view of the stage, in the nature of an anti-climax. Either the third act should be split and a short fourth act written, or the early part of the second act should be considerably tightened up, so as to admit a further development of the plot before the curtain ... [the play] is sadly unconvincing' (Truth, 17 February 1915). ‘This new play [“Searchlights” by H. A. Vachell] cannot be said to possess a likely plot or a good story, but it all the same is amusing and interesting. The play is, moreover, well written; there are charming love scenes, and the dialogue and little touches of character are good, while the cast is excellent' (Gloucester Citizen 17 February 1915). ‘“Searchlights”, will be welcome at the Savoy, for the mere fact that it is not a revival. The critics are having rather an overdose in the revivals of plays which, as a rule, do not deserve disentombment. The popular novelist not unnaturally tries to bring the great war into his new comedy, but one notices that very few changes, none essential, would have to be made to write the work without the aid of the present cataclysm, which, indeed, does not figure till the last of the three acts. I gather from the title that the war is supposed to cast a searchlight into human souls, lighting up their secret places, causing their owners to know themselves, and, consequently, to try and improve themselves. No doubt there is truth in this but I do not see the actual operation in the play upon the central figure, Robert Blaine ... However, it is unnecessary to probe this kind of play, which relied for success - and, apparently, has got it - upon the author’s cleverness in story-telling, lively dialogue, and skilful use of stage situations' (The Sketch, 17 February 1915). ‘This is quite a good play. It is concerned with the war both before and during hostilities, but there are no military manifestations about it. The nearest thing to an alien enemy that we see on the stage is a German financier named Schmaltz, who, however, has not only been naturalised, but has been knighted as well' (The Bystander, 17 February 1915). ‘Searchlights, in the present War conditions, may be regarded as a somewhat misleading title, as the piece has the slenderest connection with War affairs, except in an indirect manner. Mr. Vachell, apparently, intends his title to be applied to those mental studies and summaries of the mind which usually impress one much more in the study than on the stage. His play is pleasantly written, a quality which even pervades but does not hide the weaknesses of his piece, and if first night applause is to be taken into account should meet with success. All the same, the play is one in which one is sensitive of an attempt to build the dramatic on an unsympathetic and not very strong basis. At the end one feels that the three acts have led nowhere, that a status quo prevails, in other words the play is a disappointing one' (The Stage, 18 February 1915). 'Mr. Vachell’s play does not bear the searchlight of criticism upon it, but it provides an interesting evening’s entertainment which is greatly enhanced by the capital acting’ (Clarion, 19 February 1915). ‘Mr. H. A. Vachell’s new play aims at providing a study of the effect, war upon character, a study which would seem to offer unusual opportunities to the student of humanity. Unfortunately, in his case, the dramatist was by no means equal to his self-imposed task, and the result was a rather conventional drama, whose episodes and whose conclusion were not apparently influenced to any great degree by the upheaval which is devastating the world ... The play was received with every mark of favour’ (Sporting Times, 20 February 1915). ‘It would be difficult not to like Mr. Vachell’s new play, though it is easy enough to sniff at its story. There is so much crispness about the dialogue, there are so many agreeable touches in the minor characters, there is such a pretty, natural love-scene, and such a quaint and lovable Anglo-German that the veriest curmudgeon could not keep up a grudge against the author. And yet, truly, the Blaine household as Mr. Vachell would have us accept them are an incredible enough trio' (Illustrated London News, 20 February 1915). 'I quite enjoyed the play, but never altogether grasped what he wanted to say; but the desire to say something is so rare that a little uncertainty in the saying of it may perhaps be forgiven. I think the message was that the character of men and women are shown up in new lights by war. This you gather partly from the title and partly from the fact that Mr. Vachell told the newspapers so some days before the production. You would not, however, have easily gathered it from the play itself; which was a pity, for plays should speak their own messages without the help of titles and newspaper paragraphs ... of any character changes, subtle or otherwise, induced by the world catastrophe, I marked none. This was probably due to the fundamental difficulty that there were no characters to change. Mr. Vachell wrote often with humour, but his strong scenes were just the good old story of the firm business man and the erring wife, told, as it has been told time after time, in the rather unnatural language deemed suitable to the occasion' (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 20 February 1915). 'Searchlights ... would make an excellent novel - it is that kind of play. The characters aren’t real characters at all, they are merely men and women put here and there to tell a tale like the actors of a cinematograph drama. But the story they tell is quite interesting, and two strong scenes and one love scene are very cleverly worked up by the author. But a play which might make a good novel always suffers from one great defect - the gaps. What happens “off” is sometimes so revolutionary that it makes what happens “on” quite disconcertingly jumpy. In Searchlights the family of Blaine go through a metamorphosis between the second and third acts which changes them from a family living the life of one perpetual “row” to a household wherein patience, forebearance, and forgiveness struggle with each other to obtain breakfast-table recognition - the hardest recognition of all. It is quite possible, of course, that war may be accountable for anything! - but the entr’acte is rather a bad time in which to accomplish this miracle. Still, sudden changes of front are recognised misfortunes in all plays which must have happy endings, and happy endings they must have if there is not to be frostbite in the box-office. Mr. Vachell makes everything end all right. The result is a very nice, interesting, if somewhat unreal play' (The Tatler, 24 February 1915). 'Vachell has not explained the character of Blaine, as a dramatist, always working within his canvas, would have done. But it makes a good entertainment all the same, fascinating in its topicality’ (The Graphic, 27 February 1915). 'Searchlights, which is having a good run at the Savoy, is almost barren of war interest in the more picturesque sense of the word. The marrow of this really fine play is the life problem of the erring woman, her wronged husband, and the son who, with the rest of the world, believes himself to be the real offspring of the gloomy millionaire, Robert Blaine ... the play has not much actual war interest; but in one respect it has a most significant bearing on the present international situation ... the one purely German character, Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, is a singularly loveable person, a South German of the music-loving, home-loving type of old Hans Sachs - a type just now swamped by the ascendency of the unspeakable Prussian. Having large financial interests in his native land, he is ruined by the war; but his affection for the country of his adoption remains unshaken. “Henceforth,” he says, I trink the English lager as a punishment for hafing been born in Bavaria.” His money is gone, but he still has “de family” and his wife’s very small fortune: so he smiles at fate. It is characteristic of the tolerant spirit of the English people that this old German is a prime favourite with the Savoy audiences; whereas, I understand, no one would dare to present even the most sympathetic English character just now upon the German stage' (Cheltenham Looker-On, 17 April 1915). The assumed closing date of 15 May is derived from two circumstances, First, The Globe, Saturday 8 May, was still advertising Searchlights at the Savoy Theatre, mentioning matinees weekly on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Second, The People, Sunday 16 May 1915 reported, 'It is a matter of regret that Mr. Horace Vachell’s “Searchlights,” which reached its hundredth performance a week ago at the Savoy, has been withdrawn'. ‘Mr. H. A. Vachell had, in Searchlights, been groping rather ineffectually with some undefined ideas, and had not yet found his feet on the stage: in Quinneys he suddenly came into his own’ (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 21 August 1915). ‘Mr. Vachell is certainly the playwright of the year. He struck a new note in war plays last February with “Searchlights”’ (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 27 November 1915). ‘Unquestionably Mr. Vachell is the playwright of the year. He struck a new note in war plays last February in “Searchlights,” which ought to have had a much longer run’ (Western Mail, 4 December 1915). ‘Searchlights [is] the least satisfactory of the three pieces in which Mr. Vachell is this year showing his versatile ability as a playwright. Searchlights was an inconclusive study of domestic infelicities and suspicions, on which the War was made to have an adventitious bearing’ (The Stage, 9 December 1915).
2 Mar 1915 Prince's Theatre, BristolProfessional
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‘“Searchlights” has caught on at the Savoy, and Mr. H. B. Irving has already arranged for two flying matinées of Mr. Vachell’s clever play - at Bristol on Tuesday, March 2nd, and at Birmingham Royal on Thursday, March 11th’ (Gloucester Citizen, 24 February 1915). ‘Yesterday afternoon [at the Prince’s Theatre, Bristol] Mr H. B. Irving and his London company appeared in Mr Horace Annesley Vachell’s new play, “Searchlights.” It is not a very pleasant play, nor by any stretch of imagination a great one. But it offers splendid facilities for good acting. Indeed, the acting that the play obtained yesterday made it appear a much stronger play than it really is ... The play was enthusiastically received’ (Western daily Press, 3 March 1915). ‘Mr. Vachell’s play “Searchlights” was presented at the Prince’s Theatre on Tuesday afternoon before a crowded audience. Mr. H. B. Irving came down with his entire company from the Savoy Theatre, and the privilege of seeing this piece which has been one of the great hits in London this season was welcomed. “Searchlights” is not a pleasant play but it gives Mr. Irving opportunity for a fine bit of characterisation of which he avails himself to the full. Blaine and his wife are the central figures ... The play was enthusiastically received’ (Clifton Society, 4 March 1915). The Globe, 2 March 1915, still advertised the play at the Savoy Theatre that night.
11 Mar 1915 Theatre Royal, BirminghamProfessional
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‘“Searchlights” has caught at the Savoy, and Mr. H. B. Irving has already arranged for two flying matinées of Mr. Vachell’s clever play - at Bristol on Tuesday, March 2nd, and at Birmingham Royal on Thursday, March 11th’ (Gloucester Citizen, 24 February 1915). ‘In “Searchlights,” Mr. H. A. Vachell’s successful new play, brought down for a flying matinee by Mr. H. B. Irving to the Birmingham Theatre Royal yesterday, the author has neatly solved the problem of giving an ordinary society drama the right flavour of war ethics. There is a strong man (H. B. Irving) and an ambitious but neglected wife (Fay Davis) estranged with a witless worldling son between them. The father suspects, and his suspicions are ultimately confirmed, that the boy – in the Army, of course - is not his, but, to cut the story short, when the boy turns up trumps from the front the husband and wife find reconciliation in the new value they have got of things - hence the searchlights! The lad might have redeemed himself by any other form of manliness, but the war is the dramatic emotion of the moment, and Mr. Vachell must be credited with setting the whole story, quite a good one at any time, if not very original, with genteel sympathy and a simplified stress of feeling. There is no tearing of passions to tatters; all is tensely subdued. The genteelness is shown in the way in which Mr. Vachell gets innocent fun out of a rich Anglicised German couple with a charming girl who is in love with the boy, and yet keeps them in a kindly aspect before the audience. We should be grateful to the author, and not less to the actors, for thus abating the lurking prejudice even of a matinee audience more feminine than usual in composition. But with winsome Miss Margery Maude as the German daughter and dear Miss Bishop as Lady Schmaltz, how could it have been otherwise? ... The reception the play was most enthusiastic, and the matinee was a complete success in every way’ (Birmingham Daily Gazette, 12 March 1915). '“Searchlights,” Mr. Horace Annesley Vachell’s contribution to the stages war literature, is, as one would expect, an admirably written play, possessing considerable power. It is not entirely free from the anomalies usually encountered in a novelist’s work for the theatre, but its qualities far outweigh its faults. The theme of the thing is by no means new, though its treatment is fresh and has the literary merits one would expect coming from such a source. Essentially it sets out arrestingly the discovery, under the fierce stress of the circumstances, of facts and qualities which lie beneath the surface, and would probably remain there but for the disruption of a calamity. The people Mr. Vachell employs for his purpose are not all pleasant' (Birmingham Mail, 12 March 1915). The Globe, 11 March 1915, still advertised the play at the Savoy Theatre that night.
24 May 1915 Theatre and Opera House, CheltenhamProfessional
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‘“Searchlights,” by H. A. Vachell, which is being presented by Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell Davis and their company, has been one of the marked successes of the London season, and is still playing to crowded houses at the Savoy Theatre [sic!] ... The plot of “Searchlights” grips, and its dialogue has considerable fascination, both elements contributing largely to the success of a very piquant and clever work. But it is the atmosphere of great modern events, and the lights and shadows thrown over the picture by this that accounts for the unique place amongst recent productions' (Gloucestershire Echo, 25 May 1915).
31 May 1915 Grand, SwanseaProfessional
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The Stage, 3 June 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 31 May at the Grand, Swansea.
7 Jun 1915 New Cross Broadway, LondonProfessional
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The Stage, 3 and 10 June 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 7 June at the Broadway, New Cross. ‘Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell Davis’s company are this week giving a very interesting presentation of H. A. Vachell’s recently-produced play, Searchlights, which is making its first bow to suburban audiences at the handsome Deptford house, so ably managed by Mr. H. Buckstone Clair. Mr. Alick Chumley is seen in Mr. H. B. Irving’s character of Robert Blaine, and gives an excellent reading of this exacting part, without unduly copying the original. Mr. Chumley is accorded a good reception for his excellent work, while his partner, Mr. A. Russell Davis, makes a bluff and capital food-loving German of Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, who afterwards becomes plain Howard. Mr. Paul Hansell gives an artistic study of Henry Blaine. Miss Rosemary Rees as Mr. Blaine gives a finished performance, and makes the most of the opportunities given to her. Miss Mary Griffiths acts very ably as Lady Schmaltz. The part of Phoebe is sympathetically and gracefully played by Miss Edith Pither. Other characters are cleverly handled by Messrs. Alfred McMahon, A. Marks, T. Russell, Miss Kathleen Russell, and Miss Deborah Norton. The play is well produced, each scene being put on with attention to detail’ (The Stage, 10 June 1915). The Stage, 17 June 1915, referred back to ‘a good week with Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell Davis’s company in Searchlights’ at the Broadway, S.E.
14 Jun 1915 Hippodrome, CroydonProfessional
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The Stage, 10 and 17 June 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 14 June at the Hippo., Croydon.
21 Jun 1915 Hippodrome, RichmondProfessional
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The Stage, 17 and 24 June 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 21 June at the Hippo., Richmond. ‘Searchlights, H. A. Vachell’s recently produced play, is presented here [The Richmond] this week by Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis. As Robert Blaine Mr. Alick Chumley is very successful. He is a powerful and effective actor, making every point without undue emphasis. Miss Rosemary Rees proves herself capable of handling strong scenes with artistic finish, and is in every way suited to the trying part of Mrs. Blaine. Mr. A. Russell-Davis is an amusing and capable Sir Adalbert Schaltz [sic]. Miss Edith Pither invests the part of Phoebe Schaltz with a girlish impetuosity and charm that quite captivate her audience. Miss Mary Griffiths cleverly handles the part of Lady Schaltz. The Harry Blaine of Mr. Paul Hansell is another clever piece of work. Others gaining well-merited applause are Mr. George V. Miller, as Dr. Firmin, and Mr. Albert Marks, as Moneypenney. Some good interval music is given by the orchestra, under the baton of Mr. C. E. Howells, and all matters in front are in the hands of Mr. Allan Thomas’. The Stage, 24 June 1915.
28 Jun 1915 Theatre Royal, ColchesterProfessional
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The Stage, 24 June and 1 July 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 28 June at the Royal, Colchester. Also The Era, 30 June 1915.
5 Jul 1915 Theatre Royal, ChathamProfessional
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The Stage, 1 July 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 5 July at the Royal, Chatham. Also The Era, 30 June 1915.
12 Jul 1915 Grand Theatre, SouthamptonProfessional
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‘The attraction at the Grand Theatre [Southampton] next week will be Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’ Company in Mr. H. B. Irving’s phenomenally successful play, “Searchlights” by Horace Annesley Vachell. “Searchlights” is not a war play, but one with which the war has a good deal to do. The principal characters are a prosperous Englishman and his wife. There is a son who seems to be made of rather poor stuff, but his mother is devoted to him, and he is suddenly inspired to manliness by the outbreak of the war, from which he returns wounded. He is not, however, the son of his mother’s husband, and the revelation of this fact brings painful developments, which are worked out in very human and very thrilling style, ending eventually in forgiveness and reconciliation. The Company, which is an exceptionally strong one, will include Mr. Alick Chumley, who will appear in Mr. Irving’s part of Robert Blaine, and Mr. A. Russell-Davis, who will sustain the role of Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, a wealthy German friend of Blaine’s, who afterwards alters his name to Sir Keith Howard, on the outbreak of hostilities. Included in the cast will also be Miss Edith Pither, Miss Mary Griffiths, Miss Deborah Norton, Mr. Paul Hansell, Mr. Robert Miller, Mr. Albert Marks, and Miss Rosemary Rees, who, as the Hon. Mrs. Blaine, is provided with one of the best parts this delightful actress had ever played. The scenery and effects will be a reproduction of those used at the Savoy Theatre’ (Hampshire Independent, 10 July 1915). Noted in The Stage, 15 July 1915. 'The other night Mr. Vachell paid for and occupied a box at the Grand Theatre, Southampton, where his play was being enacted. After the “show” he sent his card to the manager, and on that functionary appearing Mr. Vachell congratulated the company on the production of the play, which he said was as good as that at the Savoy' (Dudley Chronicle, 14 August 1915).
19 Jul 1915 Theatre Royal, BournemouthProfessional
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‘Local playgoers will welcome the announcement that the management of the Theatre Royal have secured as their next week’s attraction, Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’ company, in Mr. H. B. Irving’s great success from the Savoy Theatre – “Searchlights.” The author, Mr. Horace Annesley Vachell, who has long been acknowledged as one of our most successful English playwrights, has excelled himself in “Searchlights,” and provided Mr. Irving with one of the best parts in his career. “Searchlights” is not a war play, although it touches on it - it would be well nigh impossible to write a modern play that did not ... The scenery and effects will be a reproduction of those used at the Savoy Theatre’ (Bournemouth Gazette, 17 July 1915). ‘“Searchlights” is clever - exceedingly clever as one may rightly expect from H. A. Vachell. But its cleverness lies in the fact that the author has in a wonderful manner anticipated, as it were, the changes that would be wrought in the average individual by this great world war. The title of the play may not suggest itself until the middle of the second act. Then suddenly the limelight appears to fall fully on everyone, penetrating places and problems, and revealing things which have hitherto remained unsolved to the cleverest man' (Bournemouth Graphic, 23 July 1915). '... we are left to adumbrate that the refining fires of the war in which Harry has been invalided will better everybody, and that the “Searchlights” will probe down into the deepest fastnesses of the hearts of men and women rendering them more intelligible to their fellows and thus making for that perfect understanding that means happiness ... one feels grateful to the play and wishes it length of days' (Bournemouth Guardian, 24 July 1915).
26 Jul 1915 Kursaal Theatre, BognorProfessional
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The Stage, 22 and 29 July 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour: ‘July 26, Worthing (3), Bognor (3)’. That style of announcement would usually mean that Searchlights would be performed at Worthing on Monday-Wednesday, 26-28 July, and at Bognor on Thursday-Saturday, 29-31 July. However, the Bognor Regis Observer and the Worthing Gazette each advertised on Wednesday 21 July that Searchlights would be performed by Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company at their local theatre (the Kursaal, Bognor, and The Theatre, Worthing) on the following Monday-Wednesday. Moreover, each newspaper advertised different plays for Thursday-Saturday. The Bognor Regis Observer advertised on 21 July that a play called Ann from the Criterion would be performed at the Kursaal on Thursday-Saturday, 29-31 July; and similarly The Worthing Gazette, 28 July, advertised the musical comedy The Dancing Mistress at the Worthing Theatre on Thursday-Saturday of that week. To add to the confusion, the Bognor Regis Observer and the Worthing Gazette each published on Wednesday 28 July reviews of the performance of Searchlights at their local theatre the previous Monday. Also The Stage, 29 July, noted both that ‘Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis are here [the Kursaal, Bognor] this week with Searchlights’ and that ‘Searchlights was presented here [the Royal, Worthing] on Monday by Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company’. As Bognor Regis and Worthing are only sixteen miles apart it would have been possible for the company to give a matinée performance in one town and an evening performance in the other. However, only evening performances seem to have been given at each theatre. The Bognor Regis Observer on 21 July reported that the performances at the Kursaal would be on ‘the three nights commencing next Monday’ and it advertised on 28 July that the final performance would be at 8 that night; while the Worthing Gazette advertised on 21 July that Searchlights would be performed there ‘twice nightly, at 6.45 and 9 (no Matinee)’, and in the same issue reported that Searchlights would be performed at the Theatre ‘on the first three nights of the coming week, twice nightly’, and also referred in its review on 28 July to the reactions of the audience at ‘the first of several performances on Monday evening’. Another theoretical possibility, that the company could muster enough performers for different casts to appear at the two theatres at the same time, is supported by the fact that the local newspaper reviews name different actors in the parts of Mr and Mrs Blaine: R. M. Dulzeli [sic - Dalzell] and Rosemary Rees at Bognor; A. Russell-Davis and Deborah Norton at Worthing. But it is undermined by the fact that they name the same actors in the parts of Harry Blaine and Adalbert Schmaltz: Paul Hansell in the former role at both theatres; while the Claude Camforth who is named in the latter role at Bognor is presumably the same person as the Claude Carnforth who is named in the role at Worthing. A notice in The Stage, 29 July, also identifies in the cast at Worthing ‘Mr. Russell-Davis as Robert Blaine, Mr. Claude Carnforth as Sir Adalbert Schmaltz … and Mr. Paul Hansell as Harry Blaine’ (plus Mary Griffiths as Lady Schmaltz and Edith Pither as Phoebe). For the ‘two cast’ scenario to be a possible explanation it would mean that (a) one of the newspapers made a mistake in the names of the actors playing Harry Blaine and Adalbert Schmaltz; and (b) the touring company had enough people able to go on stage to mount two performances simultaneously at different theatres (for which there is no evidence at any other time).
26 Jul 1915 Worthing Theatre, WorthingProfessional
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The Stage, 22 and 29 July 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour: ‘July 26, Worthing (3), Bognor (3)’. That style of announcement would usually mean that Searchlights would be performed at Worthing on Monday-Wednesday, 26-28 July, and at Bognor on Thursday-Saturday, 29-31 July. However, the Bognor Regis Observer and the Worthing Gazette each advertised on Wednesday 21 July that Searchlights would be performed by Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company at their local theatre (the Kursaal, Bognor, and The Theatre, Worthing) on the following Monday-Wednesday. Moreover, each newspaper advertised different plays for Thursday-Saturday. The Bognor Regis Observer advertised on 21 July that a play called Ann from the Criterion would be performed at the Kursaal on Thursday-Saturday, 29-31 July; and similarly The Worthing Gazette, 28 July, advertised the musical comedy The Dancing Mistress at the Worthing Theatre on Thursday-Saturday of that week. To add to the confusion, the Bognor Regis Observer and the Worthing Gazette each published on Wednesday 28 July reviews of the performance of Searchlights at their local theatre the previous Monday. Also The Stage, 29 July, noted both that ‘Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis are here [the Kursaal, Bognor] this week with Searchlights’ and that ‘Searchlights was presented here [the Royal, Worthing] on Monday by Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company’. As Bognor Regis and Worthing are only sixteen miles apart it would have been possible for the company to give a matinée performance in one town and an evening performance in the other. However, only evening performances seem to have been given at each theatre. The Bognor Regis Observer on 21 July reported that the performances at the Kursaal would be on ‘the three nights commencing next Monday’ and it advertised on 28 July that the final performance would be at 8 that night; while the Worthing Gazette advertised on 21 July that Searchlights would be performed there ‘twice nightly, at 6.45 and 9 (no Matinee)’, and in the same issue reported that Searchlights would be performed at the Theatre ‘on the first three nights of the coming week, twice nightly’, and also referred in its review on 28 July to the reactions of the audience at ‘the first of several performances on Monday evening’. Another theoretical possibility, that the company could muster enough performers for different casts to appear at the two theatres at the same time, is supported by the fact that the local newspaper reviews name different actors in the parts of Mr and Mrs Blaine: R. M. Dulzeli [sic - Dalzell] and Rosemary Rees at Bognor; A. Russell-Davis and Deborah Norton at Worthing. But it is undermined by the fact that they name the same actors in the parts of Harry Blaine and Adalbert Schmaltz: Paul Hansell in the former role at both theatres; while the Claude Camforth who is named in the latter role at Bognor is presumably the same person as the Claude Carnforth who is named in the role at Worthing. A notice in The Stage, 29 July, also identifies in the cast at Worthing ‘Mr. Russell-Davis as Robert Blaine, Mr. Claude Carnforth as Sir Adalbert Schmaltz … and Mr. Paul Hansell as Harry Blaine’ (plus Mary Griffiths as Lady Schmaltz and Edith Pither as Phoebe). For the ‘two cast’ scenario to be a possible explanation it would mean that (a) one of the newspapers made a mistake in the names of the actors playing Harry Blaine and Adalbert Schmaltz; and (b) the touring company had enough people able to go on stage to mount two performances simultaneously at different theatres (for which there is no evidence at any other time).
2 Aug 1915 Theatre Royal, BradfordProfessional
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The Stage, 29 July and 5 August 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 2 August at the Royal, Bradford.
9 Aug 1915 King's Hall, IlkleyProfessional
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The Stage, 5 August 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 9 August at Ilkley (3) and Colwyn Bay (3). ‘On Monday Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company gave the first of three performances of Searchlights. The play was well acted and staged. To-night (Thursday) Miss Sarah Brooks will appear in the Italian comedy Countess Coquette’ (The Stage, 12 August 1915).
12 Aug 1915 ?, Colwyn BayProfessional
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The Stage, 5 August 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 9 August at Ilkley (3) and Colwyn Bay (3).
16 Aug 1915 Opera House, DudleyProfessional
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‘Next week at the Dudley Opera House “Searchlights,” Irving’s great success, by Mr. H. A. Vachell, is to be produced' (Dudley Chronicle, 14 August 1915). The newspaper also advertised at the Opera House & Hippodrome, Dudley, in the week commencing Monday 16 August for six nights, the ‘First Visit and Important Engagement of Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis Co. in Mr. H. B. Irving’s Great Success Searchlights, By H. A. Vachell. From the Savoy Theatre’.
23 Aug 1915 Theatre Royal, NottinghamProfessional
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‘The attraction at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, for the six nights commencing next Monday will be Alick Chumley from the Savoy Theatre. Mr. Horace Annesley Vachell is undoubtedly one of our greatest modern playwrights and “Searchlights” is certainly his masterpiece. It is not a war play, though it touches upon it. It would, indeed, be difficult to write an up-to-date play that did not. The company that Messrs. Chumley and Davis are bringing with them is an exceptionally strong one. Mr. Russell Davis will himself appear as Robert Blaine, the part created by Mr. Irving and Mr. R. M. Dalzell will be seen in a most amusing role as Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, who conveniently changes his name to Sir Keith Howard on the outbreak of hostilities. The company will also include Mr. Albert Marks, Miss Mary Griffiths, Miss Edith Pither, Miss Deborah Norton, and that well-known actress, Miss Rosemary Rees, who will have full scope for her exceptional powers, as the Hon. Mrs. Blaine. The scenery and effects will be a reproduction of those used at the Savoy Theatre’ (Beeston Gazette and Echo, 21 August 1915). ‘Searchlights sought the approval of a Nottingham audience on Monday and the result was satisfactory. Mr. A. Russell Davis appears as Robert Blaine, with Miss Rosemary Rees as the wife, two characters well played. There is also clever acting by Misses Mary Griffiths, Edith Pither, and Rose Norton, and Messrs. R. M. Dalzell, Paul Hansell, and Stacey Gaunt’ (The Stage, 26 August 1915).
30 Aug 1915 County Theatre, BedfordProfessional
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The Stage, 26 August 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 30 August at the County, Bedford.
6 Sep 1915 Borough Theatre, AbergavennyProfessional
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The Stage, 9 September 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 6 September at the Borough, Abergavenny. And Chumley and Davis, then at the Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, advertised in The Era, 8 September 1915, for theatres for Searchlights.
13 Sep 1915 Palace, WestcliffeProfessional
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The Stage, 9 and 16 September 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 13 September at the Palace, Westcliff.
20 Sep 1915 Theatre Royal, WorcesterProfessional
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The Stage, 16 and 23 September 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 20 September at the Royal, Worcester.
30 Sep 1915 Hippodrome, RugbyProfessional
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‘During the latter part of the week Alick Chumley and A. Russell Davis present Searchlights’ at the Hippodrome, Rugby (The Stage, 30 September 1915), implying a split week with another show.
4 Oct 1915 West Pier Theatre, BrightonProfessional
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The Stage, 30 September and 7 October 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 4 October at the West Pier, Brighton. Noted in The Era, 6 October 1915.
11 Oct 1915 Theatre Royal, WindsorProfessional
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‘The management secured for this week’s attraction Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davies’s company in Searchlights. A. Russell-Davies, as Robert Blaine, and Rosemary Rees, as the Hon. Mrs. Blaine, fill their parts effectively, giving a splendid interpretation of the story. They are ably backed up by Arthur Bell, who, as Harry Blaine, acts his parts an easy confidence. R. M. Dalzell makes a typical Sir Schmaltz. Phoebe is well portrayed by Edith Pither. Lady Schmaltz is artistically represented by Mary Griffiths’ (The Stage, 14 October 1915).
18 Oct 1915 Royal Artillery Theatre, WoolwichProfessional
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The Stage, 14 and 21 October 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 18 October at the Artillery, Woolwich. ‘A new one set play, entitled “Will You Walk into My Parlour?” by Miss Rosemary Rees, will be put on as a curtain-raiser to “Searchlights,” in which the authoress is appearing as the Hon. Mrs. Blaine at the Artillery, Woolwich, on Monday. The play was produced in America some months ago, but has not yet been seen in England’ (The Era, 13 October 1915).
25 Oct 1915 Pier Theatre, EastbourneProfessional
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‘Local playgoers will welcome the announcement that the Pier management have secured Messrs. Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company in Mr. H. B. Irving’s great success “Searchlights” for the first three nights of next week, with a matinée on the Wednesday, The author, Mr. Horace Annesley Vachell, who has long been acknowledged as one of our most successful English playwrights, has excelled himself in “Searchlights” and provided Mr. Irving with one of the best parts in his career. “Searchlights” is not a war play, although it touches on it - it would well-nigh impossible to write a modern play that did not. It deals principally with the life of one Robert Blaine, whose marriage was one of convenience, and his wife, who had been bought by wealth, but could not be controlled by the same agency. The company that Messrs. Chumley and Davis are bringing with them is one of exceptional strength. Mr. Russell-Davis will be seen as Robert Blaine, and Mr. R. M. Dalzell will appear as Sir Adalbert Schmaltz. The cast will also include Mr. Paul Hansell, Mr. Robert Miller, Mr. Albert Marks, Miss Mary Griffiths, Miss Edith Pither, Miss Deborah Norton; and that well-known actress. Miss Rosemary Rees, will have a part after her own heart in the Hon. Mrs. Blaine. The scenery and effects will be a reproduction of those used at the Savoy Theatre’ (Eastbourne Gazette, Wednesday 20 October 1915). ‘On Monday, Tuesday and yesterday and evenings and yesterday afternoon Alick Chumley and A. Russell-Davis’s company gave the first local performances of Searchlights, A. Russell-Davis himself appearing as Robert Blaine, and receiving capital support from R. M. Dalzel (Sir Adalbert Schmaltz), Arthur Bell (Harry Blaine), Rosemary Rees (well cast as the Hon. Mrs. Blaine), Mary Griffiths (Lady Schmaltz), Edith Pither (Phoebe Schmaltz), Stacey Gaunt (Dr. Firmin), and Albert Marks (Moneypenny)’ (The Stage, 28 October 1915). ‘Mr. A. Vachell’s new play, Searchlights, which was reproduced in the Pier Theatre during the first part of the week by Mr. Alick Chumley and Mr. Russell Davies’s Company, is primarily a light type of domestic drama, with a number of finely drawn characters. It is a duel between a harsh, cold, calculating business man and politician and his wife, as the result of an unhappy marriage. As a contrast to the estranged life of Robert and Mrs. Blaine is the happy relations of a naturalised German and his family, and between the two widely differing aspects of life we have an entertaining play. Mr. Russell Davies as “Robert Blaine,” Miss Rosemary Rees as “Mrs. Blaine,” Mr. R. M. Dalzel as “Schmaltz” were highly successful in the principal parts, while Miss Edith Pither as “Phoebe Schmaltz” and Mr. Arthur Bell as “Harry Blaine” were also prominent’ (Eastbourne Chronicle, 30 October 1915).
28 Oct 1915 Theatre Royal, LincolnProfessional
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The Stage, 28 October 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 25 October at the Pier, Eastbourne (3) and the Royal, Lincoln (3).
1 Nov 1915 Prince of Wales Theatre, GrimsbyProfessional
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The Stage, 28 October and 4 November 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 1 November at the P.O.W., Grimsby.
8 Nov 1915 Theatre Royal, PeterboroughProfessional
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The Stage, 4 and 11 November 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 8 November at the Royal, Peterborough; the listing on 11 November specified three nights.
11 Nov 1915 County Theatre, St AlbansProfessional
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The Stage, 11 November 1915, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 11 November (3) at the County, St. Albans.
5 Mar 1917 Theatre Royal, PortsmouthProfessional
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The Stage, 1 March 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 5 March at the Royal, Portsmouth.
12 Mar 1917 West Pier Theatre, BrightonProfessional
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The Era, 14 March 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 12 March at the West Pier, Brighton. Also The Stage, 15 March 1917.
19 Mar 1917 Pavilion Theatre, WeymouthProfessional
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The Stage, 22 March 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 19 March at the Pavilion, Weymouth.
11 Jun 1917 Grand Theatre, CroydonProfessional
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The Norwood News, 1 June 1917, advertised ‘the great Savoy Theatre success, “Searchlights,” by H. A. Vachell’ at the Grand Theatre, Croydon, on Monday 11 June. The advertisement in the Surrey Mirror, 12 June 1917, mentioned that the play, presented by Mr. Robert Brasher, would run for six nights and a Thursday matinee. ‘The determination of the management [of the Grand Theatre, Croydon] to keep up high level of performances, in spite of the summer months, and thus provide an enjoyable evening for its best patrons without the expense and inconvenience of a journey to London, deserves a very wide support. “Searchlights,” staged this week, is an immensely popular play, and well played. It has dramatic force, is full of surprises, and lit up with humour. “ Robert Blane,” a man of integrity and business enterprise, is represented with fidelity and power by Mr. Arthur Bawtree, while Edith Hunter is responsible for the role of “Mrs. Blane,” whose relations with her husband become estranged because of the idle habits of her son “Harry,” who is personated in a most convincing way by Mr. Robert Brasher. “Phoebe,” the pretty daughter, with a little German blood in her veins, falls in love with happy-go-lucky Harry, and how exquisitely she does it Miss Nancy Pethybridge most charmingly shows. Her mother, “Lady Schmaltz,” is in the hands of a gifted actress, Miss Mary Griffiths, who makes a deep impression by the clever way she portrays her character, and her naturalised German husband, “Sir Adalbert Schmaltz,” is in the good hands of Mr. James Willoughby. The play increases in interest as it proceeds, and the contrast of the various emotions evoked makes it romantic and sensational. It is splendidly staged’ (Surrey Mirror, 15 June 1917).
18 Jun 1917 Pier Theatre, EastbourneProfessional
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‘“Searchlights” is one the few plays that grow in interest and strength right down to the very final scene, a fact which makes it remarkably impressive. This excellent play, of which Mr. Horace Annesley Vachell is the author, is a war play, but not an ordinary war play. It is one of exceptional merit, and one which allows its onlookers an insight into the lives of two families ... The play is being presented by Mr. Robert Brasher, and is well played by the artists responsible for the various characters. As Robert Blane, the successful business man, but rather less successful in matrimony, Mr. Arthur Bawtree scores a distinct success; and he is ably supported by Miss Edith Hunter as his wife. One of best parts of the play is the charming comedy touch of Miss Mary Griffiths as Lady Schmaltz, the wife of the naturalised German, and Mr. James Willoughby, as her husband, Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, K.C.V.O., provides plenty of humour. Mr. Robert Brasher, in the role of Harry Blane, is particularly successful, while the Phoebe Schmaltz of Miss Nancy Pertlybridge [sic – presumaby Pethybridge] is another excellent piece of acting. The remainder of the cast is excellently handled, and those who have not seen “Searchlights” should take the opportunity that still remains of doing so' (Eastbourne Gazette, 20 June 1917).
5 Jul 1917 Opera House, BuxtonProfessional
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The Stage, 5 July 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 5 July at the O.H., Buxton (3).
16 Jul 1917 Grand Opera House, ScarboroughProfessional
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‘The principal halls of entertainment at Scarborough have survived the years of war. There is Mr. Vachell’s “Searchlights” at the Grand Opera House …’ (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, Tuesday 17 July 1917).
23 Jul 1917 Theatre Royal, BradfordProfessional
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‘At the [Bradford] Theatre Royal, “Searchlights,” by Horace Annesley Vachell, is being presented. This play had a record run [sic!] at the Savoy Theatre, London, where it was played by H. B. Irving and company’ (Leeds Mercury, 24 July 1917).
9 Aug 1917 Assembly Rooms, MalvernProfessional
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The Stage, 9 August 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 9 August at the Assembly Rooms, Malvern (3).
20 Aug 1917 Grand Theatre, PentreProfessional
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The Stage, 23 August 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 20 August at the Grand, Pentre.
30 Aug 1917 Knightstone Pavilion, Weston-Super-MareProfessional
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‘To-night (Thursday) Robert Brasher’s company are due with “Searchlights’ at the Knightstone Pavilion, Weston-super-Mare (The Stage, Thursday 30 August 1917).
3 Sep 1917 Pier Theatre, EastbourneProfessional
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‘Tears and smiles are blended in the skilful manner that is typical of Horace Annesley Vachell in “Searchlights,” which commenced a successful week at the Pier Theatre on Monday. The main thread of the story is the discovery by a great financier that his son is really the child of a V.C. hero, who, before a glorious death in the Boer War, had won the love of the financier’s wife. The revelation, not unexpected, causes tense moments in the later acts, and it is here that Miss Edith Hunter as Mrs Blain, and Arthur Bawtree as Robert Blain, by their very naturalness, hold the audience spellbound. Mr. Robert Brasher gives a fine picture of Harry Blain, the antithesis of his rich “father.” The play has a war flavour in so far as Harry’s participation in the Mons Retreat makes at once an invalid and a man of him. The lighter part of the story is sketched in by the Schmaltz family. As the name implies their origin is German, though naturalisation has made them Scotch. Mr. Leo Caselli as Sir Adalber [sic] Schmaltz, K.C.V.O., is exceedingly fanny, while Miss Mary Griffiths gives an excellent picture of his “frau,” affectionate, and placid but without humour. Their sunny lovable daughter Phoebe is played by Miss Nancy Pethybridge' (Eastbourne Gazette, 5 September 1917). ‘Robert Brasher presents, for the third time locally, “Searchlights” this week [at the Pier Theatre, Eastbourne]. Arthur Bawtree (Robert Blain), Robert Brasher (Harry Blain), Edith Hunter (Mrs. Blain), Mary Griffiths (Lady Schmaltz), Nancy Pethybridge (Phoebe Schmaltz), John Rentell (Dr. Firmin), Owen Wallace (Moneypenny), Maud Scott (Fewson), and Lilian Grosvenor (Nurse) repeat their impersonations of June last, the only new member being Leo Casselli (Sir Adalbert Schmaltz)’ (The Stage, 6 September 1917).
10 Sep 1917 Palace Pier Theatre, BrightonProfessional
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The Era, 5 September 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 10 September at the Palace Pier, Brighton. Noted in The Era, 12 September 1917, mentioning cast members Robert Brasher, May Hunter, Lilian Grosvenor, Nancy Pethybridge, Mary Griffiths, Arthur Bawtree, James Willoughby, Basil H. Game and Saxon Looker.
17 Sep 1917 Empire, SouthendProfessional
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The Era, 19 September 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 17 September at the Empire, Southend.
24 Sep 1917 Theatre Royal, ColchesterProfessional
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The Era, 19 September 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 24 September at the T.R., Colchester.
1 Oct 1917 Theatre Royal, LincolnProfessional
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‘Mr. H. B. Irving’s great success, “Searchlights,” written Horace Annesley Vachell, is revisiting the Theatre Royal, Lincoln, for the first three evenings of this week, played on the twice nightly system, and with a matinee at 2.30 to-morrow. Its presentation last evening was on a very high scale indeed, and the general verdict seemed to be that here was an excellent play well acted, as it certainly was well mounted. Mr. Robert Brasher has brought together a company of experienced players, who offer “Searchlights” almost better, if possible, than on the previous visit, and the stillness of the house was remarkable in the final incidents, wherein for some moments not a word is spoken, and the onlookers are still in doubt as to which way Robert Blain, having made the most tragic domestic discovery a man may make, will decide. In this part Mr. Arthur Bawtree showed great powers, supported admirably by Miss Edith Hunter as the much tried wife. The figure of Schmaltz was cleverly delineated by Mr. Leo Caselli, and the young lovers were capably played by Mr. Robert Brasher and Miss Nancy Pethybridge. “Searchlights” is a strong production, which should crowd the theatre’. Lincolnshire Echo, 2 October 1917.
4 Oct 1917 Theatre Royal, King’s LynnProfessional
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The Stage, 4 October 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 4 October at the Royal, King’s Lynn (3).
8 Oct 1917 ?, PeterboroughProfessional
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The Era, 10 October 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 8 October (3) at Peterborough.
15 Oct 1917 New Theatre, SalisburyProfessional
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The Stage, 18 October 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 15 October at the New, Salisbury. Also The Era, 10 October 1917.
22 Oct 1917 Theatre Royal, ExeterProfessional
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The Stage, 18 October 1917, listed Searchlights as On Tour from 22 October at the Royal, Exeter. Also The Era, 24 October 1917. ‘“Searchlights,” by Mr. H. A. Vachell, described as comedy domestic drama, which is being presented by Mr. Robert Brasher’s Company at the Theatre Royal, Exeter, is somewhat out of the usual run of such plays, the plot evolving on totally different lines from those the opening act would lead one to expect. Who would imagine, for instance, that Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, K.C.V.O., really was in Great Britain because he liked the country and detested the land of his birth instead of being a spy in the pay of the Germans? Indeed, throughout it is not easy to understand how things are really going to shape, but “Searchlights” is none the worse on that account, and there are some intensely dramatic incidents when the excitement is at fever heat. Mr. Brasher has brought a clever Company, who play up to one another excellently ... As a curtain-raiser a new one-act play by Geoffrey Wilkinson, “The Empty House,” a dramatic episode of the undoing of a German spy by a plucky English man, created considerable interest’ (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 23 October 1917).
29 Oct 1917 Theatre Royal, TorquayProfessional
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‘Mr. H. B. Irving’s success “Searchlights” is this week being presented by Mr. Robert Brasher’ at the Theatre Royal, Torquay. The Era, 31 October 1917.
5 Nov 1917 Theatre Royal, HalifaxProfessional
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‘“Searchlights at The Royal. “Searchlights” has nothing to do with raids or guns, and has, indeed, little to do with the war, although the early stages of the conflict are reflected in the dialogue. It is a comedy domestic drama by H. A. Vachell, in which the distinctive characters afford scope for some very fine acting. The wealthy Robert Blain and his wife are not happily married. Blain has a suspicion, which grows into a certainty, that Harry Blain – a careless, light-hearted young fellow who is idolised by his mother - is not his son. In a tense scene Mrs. Blain, enraged by Blain’s harsh treatment of Harry, blurts out the truth, and in the evolution of the story from this point the attention of the audience is closely held. Robert Blain as depicted by Mr. Arthur Bawtree is a human iceberg, and his rigid, unsentimental personality is utterly repellent. Mrs. Blain is much more attractive, and in the hands of Edith Hunter sympathy is aroused for the woman who has sinned. Mr. Robert Brasher is delightful as Harry Blain, a young man who candidly admits that his pseudo-father is a money-maker, while he is a money-spender. Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, a German naturalised, and his English wife figure prominently in the early stages of the play, and are well portrayed by Mr. Leo Casselli and Miss Bessie Bedford; and Phoebe Schmaltz, whom Harry is in love with, is effectively impersonated by Miss Nan Bevill’. Halifax Evening Courier, 6 November 1917.
12 Nov 1917 The Marina, DouglasProfessional
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The Era, 7 and 14 November 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 12 November at The Marina, Douglas, I.O.W. [sic - surely Isle of Man].
19 Nov 1917 Winter Gardens, New BrightonProfessional
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The Era, 14 November 1917, listed Searchlights as On The Road from 19 November at the W.G.T., New Brighton. ‘The Winter Gardens are ever swift to bring to New Brighton the best fare, and they frequently outpace Liverpool … on Monday [next week] “Searchlights,” by Horace Vachell – first theatre out of London to obtain this novel piece [sic!]’ (Liverpool Echo, Friday 16 November 1917). Reviewed in The Stage, 22 November 1917, which mentions the cast members Edith Hunter, Arthur Bawtree, Robert Brasher, Bessie Bedford, Leo Caselli, John Rentall, Owen Wallace, Nan Bevill, Lilian Grosvenor and Maud Scott.
26 Nov 1917 King's Theatre, OswestryProfessional
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The Stage, 29 November 1917, reported, ‘Robert Brasher’s company in “Searchlights” are here (the King’s, Oswestry) on a welcome return visit’. Cast members were Edith Hunter, Arthur Bawtree, Robert Brasher, Bessie Bedford, Leo Casselli, J. Renfell, Owen Wallace, Nan Bevill, Maud Scott and Lilian Grosvenor.
3 Dec 1917 Theatre and Opera House, CheltenhamProfessional
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‘At the Theatre [and Opera House] next week Mr Robert Brasher presents Mr. H- B. Irving’s great London success Searchlights, by Horace Annesley Vachell, the popular author of Quinneys. Searchlights is described as a delightful Comedy Domestic Drama of human interest. It is a war play, but not one of the kind which make people cringe and wish they had not come to the Theatre. It gives an insight into the lives of two households, one of a keen business man who has foreseen the war and been prepared, and the other of a sweet-natured naturalized German whose country is Scotland, the land of his ancestors, though as he says himself he had the misfortune to be born in Bavaria, who has foreseen nothing' (Cheltenham Looker-On, 1 December 1917). ‘At the Cheltenham Theatre this week “Searchlights,” by Horace Annesley Vachell, is being produced by a strong company. Like the same composer’s delightful “Quinney’s” it is a very human play, but the comedy element is not quite so much to the forefront and there is a very strong human interest, the plot being based on circumstances connected with the war’ (Gloucestershire Echo, 3 December 1917). ‘“Searchlights,” by Horace Annesley Vachell, is being presented at the Cheltenham Theatre this week by a company, toured by Mr. Robert Brasher, who will not lessen the good impression the piece left when played there in May, 1915, by another company' (Gloucestershire Echo, 4 December 1917). ‘Though the action of the play covers the period immediately preceding the war and also the early days of the German invasion of Belgium and France, Searchlights (by Horace Annesley Vachell) is not primarily a war play but a domestic comedy drama. It concerns the fate of two lovers, Harry Blain and Phoebe Schmaltz, the first the reputed son of a hard-fisted commercial Englishman who had the prescience to anticipate the war and to make his preparations accordingly, the second the daughter of a naturalised German who disregarded all Blain’s warnings and put every halfpenny of his capital into Teuton undertakings, with the result that he lost all when the crash came ... A strong play powerfully acted by Mr. Robert Brasher’s Company ... The front play is by Geoffrey Wilkinson, and in it a German spy gets his deserts’ (Cheltenham Looker-On, 8 December 1917).
10 Dec 1917 Empire, SwindonProfessional
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The North Wilts Herald, 7 December 1917, advertised ‘Mr. Robert Brasher presents Mr. H. B. Irving’s great London success: “Searchlights,” A Comedy Domestic Drama, from the Savoy Theatre, London’, twice nightly from Monday 10 December at the Empire Theatre, Swindon.
14 Oct 1918 Royal and Empire Theatre, Merthyr TydfilProfessional
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‘Mr. Louis Hector has scored. another triumph with the Theatre Royal audiences. On Monday evening Annesley Vachell’s masterpiece, “Searchlights,” was received with great enthusiasm. Such performances as these tend to raise the level of the dramatic art and give a tone of appreciation to all lovers of really good fare. Mr. Hector, as Robert Blaine, the big-hearted, level-headed English business man, fall of enthusiasm for his country, very quickly upset all the plans of the enemies of his country, and with his fine personality and remarkable ability as an actor, his handling of this most difficult and peculiar part was a personal triumph for him. Mr. Hector is exceedingly well supported by an excellent company. Miss Marion Fawcett, as the Hon. Mrs. Blaine, is exceedingly successful; Miss Jessie Belmore, as Phoebe Schmaltz, is a charming personality; Mr. Clive Woods, who takes the part of Robert Blaine’s son, is a most able and finished delineator of that character, puts in some excellent work, and was well supported by Mr. Dennis Bryan, Harold Greaves and Tom Bowron. To-night [which must mean Friday night] and Saturday night “Miss Elizabeth’s Prisoner” will be staged, and we can predict another treat in store’. Merthyr Express, Saturday 19 October 1918.
17 Feb 1919 Repertory Theatre, PlymouthProfessional
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‘Searchlights is successfully played by the repertory company. Robert Blaine is portrayed by Richd. A. Greene with great power and skill. Maud Garth is distinctly good as Mrs Blaine. R. Marris Davis does well in the rôle of Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, whose daughter Phoebe is charmingly played by Kathleen Gerrard. Harry Blaine is in the skilful hands of Clifton Earle’. The Stage, 20 February 1919.
19 Mar 1920 Opera House, DunfermlineAmateur
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‘Last night’s performance of the Dunfermline Amateur Dramatic Society in the Opera House was perhaps the biggest task of their week’s work, and the magnificent reception which the players received at the close was no more than deserved. In selecting “ Searchlights,” Mr Robert M. Dalziel, the society’s coach and producer, made a bold choice, but it was not perhaps so daring it would seem; he knew the capabilities of his players, and his confidence was not misplaced. The performance was noteworthy for the general high standard of the acting, a standard of which not one player fell in any way short. The emotional acting was largely in the hands of Mr and Mrs T. O. Paterson, as Mr and Mrs Robert Blaine respectively, but to those experienced players it presented no difficulties. Their work was as convincing as it possibly could be. Mr W. Henderson, their son, Harry, had just as complete a success, while not having the same burden to bear, and all he did was done with effortless ease. Miss D. Sclare, as Phoebe Schmaltz, captivated with her natural grace; and Miss Ada Irvine, as Lady Schmaltz, did all that was asked in an excellent manner. As Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, Mr Bert Wilson provided the little flashes of humour which were so necessary, and he, too, never faltered in his stride. The cast was completed by Miss P. Ruddick and Messrs J. Dick and P. Weir’. Dundee Evening Telegraph, 20 March 1930.
1 Mar 1926 Little Theatre, BristolProfessional
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The Western Daily Press, Friday 26 February 1926, advertised H. A. Vachell’s Searchlights at the Little Theatre, Bristol the following week. ‘When he wrote “Searchlights,” a clever play in three acts, Horace A. Vachell dived deeply into the complexities of human nature. The passions and frailties of men and women was the axle on which the wheel of the piece turned, but the evenness of the running is either made or marred by those whose work is to present it. The production lends itself to powerful acting, indeed its success rests upon the capacity of the players to interpret the author’s conception correctly. Good acting without sympathy would be unsatisfactory, but last evening the members of the Little Theatre company gave as delightful a presentation of the play as one could wish for. The characters are all so widely different in their traits that weakness in any one would be fatal. The strength of the play lies in the ability of the artists to portray weakness and strength, love and hatred at will, and this was what those who were present were entertained with. The story concerns a stern British capitalist who made a marriage of convenience, and how after years of trial and strife complete reconciliation was created. There is a pretty little love passage running through the play, and some quiet but none the less keen humour. Peter Taylor-Smith’s Robert Blaine the capitalist, a stern, unbending British parent, was admirably given, and Miss Edith Sharpe certainly scored another success as Mrs Blaine, a part in which she was given ample scope for her artistry. As the son, William Freshman made a hit with his confident and nonchalant manner. Ralph Hutton has done few better things than his presentation of Sir Adalbert Schmaltz, the German capitalist of Scottish descent, whose good nature and geniality was in marked contrast to the sombre and severe bearing of his friend Blaine. The gentle Lady Schmaltz was most capably played by Miss Marjorie Fielding, whilst Phoebe, the daughter, gave Miss Kathleen Alcock but another opportunity of displaying her powers. They were the principal characters, but in a lesser degree Miss Janet Morrison, Noel Morris, Donald Gordon, and Max Jerome gave them excellent support’ (Western Daily Press, 2 March 1926). Noted in The Stage, 4 March 1926.
14 Jul 1930 Victoria Theatre, BurnleyProfessional
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‘A strong play by the author of “Quinneys,” H. A. Vachell, will be staged by the Julian and Ward Players at the Victoria Theatre next week. This is “Searchlights,” and, although the play deals with the war, the action of the piece takes place in Scotland and England, and shows rather the effect of the catastrophe upon the people in the story and throws searchlights upon their inmost souls ... “Searchlights” illustrates how, amid the tragedies of 1914, the Blaine family is saved from their own domestic tragedies - the father and son who do not understand each other and are opposed to each other - the husband and wife who are drifting apart' (Burnley Express, 12 July 1930). ‘One of the strongest and best plays dealing with the war will be submitted to Victoria patrons week in H. A. Vachell’s “Searchlights,” which was originally produced at the Savoy Theatre, London. The searchlights of the play are those which penetrate the dark places of the human heart. The piece demonstrates how the war changed and softened the character of Robert Blaine, the hard, far-seeing capitalist, alienated from his wife and his son. The action of the play takes place at home. It is not a “war play” in the sense of there being any element of a martial nature introduced ... “Searchlights” will be found to be a play of great human interest, reflecting a period that is historic’ (Burnley News, 12 July 1930). ‘Essentially a play of human interest and one dealing with the War period, “Searchlights,” the Vachell play presented by the Julian and Ward players at the Victoria Theatre this week, is a domestic drama with powerful incidents' (Burnley Express, 16 July 1930).