Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This is a more or less literal version of the Belgian play which has been running at the Criterion. It reads naturally, except perhaps where the French slang of the news vendors is done with cockney English, in the second act. Expressions, or even ideas, have not the same value, very often, when translated, and what hardly seems coarse in our language may seem decidedly so in another, but there is nothing in this version which calls for censure. The simple story of life in Brussels under the Germans comes out well - the pleasant domesticity of the Jadot family. Jadot's arrest by the treacherous German Siegfried, the scene in the prison with the fair picture of good and bad German officials, the return to this home of Jadot, and Siegfried's coming again to announce that the daughter's fiancé has been killed, and her stabbing him, the last touch seeming still to me out of tone with the rest. A pathetic play. Recommended for license. G. S. Street.

Researcher's Summary:

This is a translation of the original French play by Jean-François Eléonore Fonson, otherwise known as Frantz Fonson. The English-language version is made by Celia Storm and Ina or Iné Cameron (according to contemporary newspaper reports).

Licensed On: 4 Mar 1915

License Number: 3227


British Library Reference: LCP1915/5

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66091 O


8 Mar 1915 Shakespeare Theatre, LiverpoolUnknown Licensed Performance
8 Mar 1915 Shakespeare Theatre, LiverpoolProfessional
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‘the Shakespeare Theatre is to be the scene of a very important first-time-on-any-stage production. namely, an English version of the celebrated play by the distinguished Belgian dramatist. Jean Francois Fonson, “The Kommandatur.” The translation has been made by Miss Celia Storm and Miss Iné Cameron, and a strong company is headed by that gifted actor, Mr. J. D. Beveridge, Mr. Arthur Chesney, so long and so pleasantly associated with the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, and Miss Miriam Lewes, a young actress who has risen very early to the first rank of the profession. The piece in the original was produced at the Criterion Theatre by the Belgian company a few months ago, and was revived the other day. The action takes place in Brussels during the German occupation. M. Fonson’s play has been described “the first play on the present war which seems real and is able to touch the emotions It is the knowledge of Brussels - its loathing, its despair, its courage, and its gaiety - that M. Fonson has expressed in his own lavish spreading, full-blooded, unconcentrating way.”’. Liverpool Daily Post, Friday 5 March 1915. ‘At the Shakespeare Theatre this week appears “The Kommandatur,” a play in three acts by M. Jean Francois Fonson (translation by Celia Storm and Ine Cameron), compact, skilfully woven, finely written, and destitute of the ordinary melodramatic thrills but with, we think, a quite legitimately thrilling, tragic climax’. Liverpool Echo, Tuesday 9 March 1915. ‘After its successful run at the Criterion, in French, Jean François Fonson’s play, The Kommandatur, made its first bow on Monday [at the Shakespeare Theatre, Liverpool] in English. One cannot help thinking that it has lost much in its translation. The translators, Celia Storm and Ine Cameron, must be held responsible for the piece as it now stands, and unhappily they have turned out a diffuse and ineffective play. Its one “shock” – the slaying of Siegfried Weiger [sic] by Catherine Jadot – comes so late and so suddenly that it is soon done and over, and the play along with it. Simple Continental domesticity is really its base. It counts to the enterprise of Mr. Harold V. Neilson that he has saved(?) so much dramatic worth for the main interpretation of the play, which, in the original, deservedly made a palpable hit at the Criterion on January 25; but neither the artistic depth nor the fine colouring which Mr. J. D. Beveridge, in the richness of his art, could apply to Antoine Jadot, nor the grace of expression and intellectuality of Miss Miriam Lewes’s admired and searching beauty of playing could more than fitfully galvanise interest in the ineffectual doings of this version'. The Stage, 11 March 1915.
15 Mar 1915 King's Theatre, HammersmithProfessional
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The final performance date 20 March 1915 is not certain. ‘Hammersmith and West Kensington playgoers will find a notable attraction at the King’s Theatre this week in the English version M. Fonson’s thrilling war-drama, “La Kommandatur.” This play was first acted at the Criterion by the Belgian company, which has lately concluded its welcome engagement, and nothing has more graphically delineated the rage and humiliation of Belgium and the Belgians under the German invaders. Translated into vigorous English, and well acted, the play should be as enthralling as it was in French; and even those fine actors MM. Duquesne and Libeau should have no difficulty in finding adequate successors among their English confrères’. Pall Mall Gazette, Tuesday 16 March 1915. ‘Most of the plays provoked, or evoked, by the war, have been rubbish; but Fonson’s drama, “La Kommandatur,” despite a needlessly melodramatic ending, is a play of great merit, so it is a good thing that an excellent English version, by Celia Storm and Ine Cameron, has been produced. The first night was at the King’s, Hammersmith; probably the thrilling work will soon find its way into the sacred circle of the West End. The question of language prevented a real success from being won at the Criterion; but, in our mother-tongue, this strong, poignant story of the German invasion of Belgium will make a great impression on all classes of playgoers, except the callously frivolous'. The Sketch, Wednesday 24 March 1915.