Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This eminent socialist can hardly be congratulated on his incursion into play-writing, but in spite of its alarming title this nonsensical little play has no particular harm in it. A German colonel is sitting in his tent, 'in the vicinity of German trenches’, when an English woman is brought in arrested as a spy. She is a pretty young woman and speaks like a cockney, and the humour of the piece consists in her cockney and fearless chaff of the German. He begins to flirt with her and bargains to give her a safe conduct in return for a kiss: it afterwards turns out that the safe conduct was not one at all. Then she sits on his knee and he drinks champagne; he dozes and she gets possession of documents. Then there bursts in an English officer - we have apparently surprised the Germans - with 'hands up'. Whereupon the girl drops her cockney accent and says she is 'a representative of the British Intelligence Department'. Also the Englishman appears to be an old friend and they become engaged. It is of course undignified to chaff the enemy in this way, but since there have been so many plays representing him as brutal and murderous, it would be extremely in inconsistent to forbid one merely representing him as a fool. Perhaps it is not wise to make the girl who plays the trick a member of 'The British Intelligence Department' - though I suppose we do employ female spies at times - but that is only the emission of a sentence - p.10. Otherwise the piece is Recommended for license. G. S. Street.

Researcher's Summary:

Only the performance mentioned in the licence has been identified. If Sydney Bland, the actor who played Lieut. Danziger, is the ‘light comedian’ of that name he was already appearing in a different production, a sketch called “The Great Game”, at the Leith Alhambra from 3 May 1915 (see Edinburgh Evening News, 1 May 1915, and Stage, 6 May 1915). Sydney Bland inserted a notice in The Stage, 17 June 1915 stating that he was ‘disengaged now and autumn’. Louis Sealy, who played Lieut. Blake, was appearing in a different production, “The Fighting Chance”, by the beginning of April 1915. Ruth Norreys was the wife of Victor Grayson according to newspaper reports of her death in February 1918.

License Number: 3228?



British Library Reference: LCP1915/5

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66091 P


1 Mar 1915 Empire, Camberwell, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
1 Mar 1915 Empire, Camberwell, LondonProfessional
Read Narrative
‘“War, Wine and a Woman”. Dramatic Episode, by Victor Grayson, Produced at the Camberwell Empire on Monday March 1. Colonel Emden … Mr. Cecil Belcher Lieut. Danziger … Mr. Sydney Bland Lieut. Blake … Mr. Louis Sealy Winnie Alsop … Miss Ruth Norreys The scene of “War, Wine and a Woman” is laid in the officers’ quarters behind the German trenches. An English lady prisoner, Winnie Alsop, of the British Intelligence Department, is brought in. Pretending to be a Cockney, she wheedles round the German officer, who writes her a pardon. Having a knowledge of the German language, Winnie discovers that this is not really a pardon, and after plying the German with champagne he falls asleep. The girl then steals some despatches and the English arrive under Lieut. Blake. Winnie revealing her identity, it transpires that she is Lieut. Blake’s fiancée. Miss Ruth Norreys gave an excellent impersonation of Winnie Alsop, her character study as a Cockney being especially good. Colonel Emden was well played by Mr. Cecil Belcher, whilst Mr. Sydney Bland as Lieut. Danziger and Mr. Louis Sealy as Lieut. Blake also did praiseworthy work’. The Era, 3 March 1915.