Great War Theatre

Examiner of Plays' Summary:

This piece is chiefly spectacular, on a very ambitious scale. So far as there is a story it proceeds on the familiar lines of melodrama about the war. Thus, it begins with a village scene just before the war. One Billy is nearly induced by a female German spy to promise to go with her to Germany and foolishly is entrusted with an important packet. Then the news that war is declared arrives and billy enlists, still with the packet. Later on he arrives, after months, with a wounded comrade in a Belgian house and is hidden; enter the German captain (previously a spy in the village in England) with the female spy and soldiers. Belgians are brutally shot for refusing to disclose whereabouts of English; Billy, discovered, refuses to give up packet; arrival of English and fierce fight. So much for the story which we have had essentially many times before. The more ambitious and spectacular part includes, in Act I, a scene of the departure of troops from Waterloo; l in act II, 3 tableaux of the transport of our troops to France and their arrival there, the bombardment of Rheims, a symbolical scene of Egypt and a great naval battle between England and Germany. The latter is a forecast and the whole concludes with a forecast of the end of the war; a scene in the 'palace' at Berlin in which ' 'the prince' and 'the chief commander' refuse to give way to popular clamour to accept terms: at the very end 'the capital has fallen, the allies are marching through our gates' and 'Tipperary' is heard. This agreeable prophecy may be premature and a little boastful, but I see no harm in putting it on the stage. In accordance with rule however, the management should be required to guarantee that in the lasts scene the emperor and crown prince must not be personated. Most of the songs appear to have been published: if any once, not given, has not been, the words must be sent in for approval. Recommended for license. G. S. Street.

Researcher's Summary:

This production was a hit in 1915. An advert in 'The Stage' on 29 April 1915 noted only three remaining weeks available in the schedule. The advert listed key features including: '30 people travelled. £1,000 of new scenery and dresses. Full of Fine Comedians, Pretty Girls, Splendid Musical Numbers and Magnificent Scenery. Musical Comedy terms only entertained. This is not a hashed-up war drama but the famous original musical comedy show. Average Saturday night £100'. An autumn tour was soon planned and in advertising for theatres Mortimer highlighted that this would be the 'third edition' with six new scenes 'built on bright comedy and real moments'. It was, he emphasised 'an optimistic revue of the times...makes you glad you are British...Not a Morbid War Drama' (Stage, 24 June 1915) Mortimer submitted the new version for licence under the title 'Don't be Silly' and it was licensed on 14 August 1915. By the end of September however he decided 'on account of so many 'trashy' revues with comedy titles - now touring - and thinking his really dignified and really musical production may suffer and be misunderstood under the light comedy title' to change it back to 'The Glorious Day' (Stage, 30 September 1915). Only two notices appear in the newspapers for performances under the title 'Don't be Silly' and from the end of September the new version was performed under the original title of 'The Glorious Day'. Performances for all versions of the play are listed below.

Licensed On: 12 Feb 1915

License Number: 3187

British Library Reference: LCP1915/3

British Library Classmark: Add MS 66089 P

Performances

DateTheatreType
26 Dec 1914 Playhouse, LianhillethProfessional
4 Jan 1915 Theatre Royal, SmethwickProfessional
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The work was performed by around sixty performers and 'provides some imposing scenes' with the departure and transportation of troops, destruction of Rheims Cathedral and sinking of the Kaiser's Fleet being of particular note for reviewers.
15 Feb 1915 Elephant and Castle Theatre, LondonUnknown Licensed Performance
22 Feb 1915 Theatre Royal, ChathamProfessional
22 Mar 1915 Kelly's Theatre, LiverpoolProfessional
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Leonard Mortimer played the principal part in the production.
29 Mar 1915 Opera House, CoventryProfessional
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'Many tuneful and popular songs and dances, and much humorous business are interspersed with the dramatic scenes: and a brass band and number of enthusiastic youngsters all contribute with the excellent company to the undoubted success of the production.' (Evening Standard, 26 March 1915). ‘It is to be hoped that it will be the forerunner of actualities inasmuch as one tableau is representative of the entry of the Allies into Berlin and “a Glorious Peace”' (Coventry Telegraph, 30 March 1915). 'I do not really think it is desirable, at this moment, to put on the stage divide presentments of the bombardment and burning of Belgian cathedrals, or to show the death of a British ‘Tommy’ in a Belgian farmhouse, and the subsequent shooting of an aged priest by order of a German officer. The more realistic they are - and these scenes are very realistic and powerful - the worse the position becomes, in my opinion. […] Such scenes are not fitting subjects for stage representation when we have the horrible reality at our very door. All this, I agree, is merely a mater of personal opinion. I think, however, there will be a strong public centime in support' (Coventry Herald, 2 April 1915)
5 Apr 1915 Palace Theatre, GloucesterProfessional
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Included a special matinee at 2.30 on Easter Monday. 'Mr. Leonard Mortimer and his full No. I London Company have presented The Glorious Day twice nightly. It not only slap up-to date, but it shows intelligent anticipation coming events, for towards the end the Allies enter Berlin, the death of the War Lord is foreshadowed, and “The Glorious Day” of peace is ushered in. Patriotism and comedy, laughter and tears, pathos and burlesque are dealt out with a lavish hand. Of anything in the shape of well-connected plot there not much trace, but in exchange you have superabundance of boisterous fun. showy but extremely dainty dresses, and spirited music and dancing. kbit there is cohesion notwithstanding, in that the dangers through which our country is now passing are portrayed, and the lessons to be learned from the present war are strenuously driven home. A strong recruiting appeal is made both in song and speech, backed up trumpet and drum (and here some eight or ten bandsmen from the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars assist the augmented orchestra and appear on the stage); and the spy peril also forms part the slender story. There are eleven tableaux, some in the well-known style of Messrs. Pooledrums, alarums, nerve-shaking explosions, and the lurid glamour of war—but all them strikingly effective. The chorus, numbering some 60. add much to the brightness and jollity of the revue, as it also deepens the impression of the more serious scenes. The oast is particularly strong one: Mr. Leonard Mortimer, author and hero, takes the part of Just Billy Boy,” and irresistibly carries all along with him; his pal, Mr. Louis Oaye, makes lively Tony Evans; and Mr. Fred Russell a typical John Bull; Miss Peggy Wyse is a vivacious and altogether charming Molly Wedlake (Billy’s sweetheart); and Miss Graeie Gallimore Ernestine Ardeune, and Mr, Ernest Griffen as Count Paul Schumann forcefully illustrate the spy peril in this country. These are only a few from a very long oast, all whom found favour amongst the thronged houses Monday.'(Gloucester Journal, 10 April 1915)
19 Apr 1915 Theatre Royal, AstonProfessional
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Large audiences were reported on opening night (Birmingham Daily Gazette, 20 April 1915)
26 Apr 1915 New Empire, West BromwichProfessional
3 May 1915 Coliseum, Bury St EdmundsProfessional
10 May 1915 Elephant and Castle Theatre, LondonProfessional
24 May 1915 Theatre Royal, SmethwickProfessional
14 Jun 1915 Dalston Theatre, DalstonProfessional
23 Aug 1915 Empire, Camberwell, LondonProfessional
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Performed as 'Don't be Silly'. 'This revue having undergone many changes, all of which are dundoubtedly for the best, now makes a bid for futther honours under the above title' (Stage, 26 August 1915). Changes included a reduction from 13 to 10 tableaux. The 'pastoral scene' in Devon was removed and new scenes showing 'Big Lizzie in Action' and a 'Carnival of Peace' were added. The performance was well received but the Stage recommended a change of title.
27 Sep 1915 Queen's Theatre, LeedsProfessional
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Performed as 'Don't be Silly'.
4 Oct 1915 Theatre Royal, CastlefordProfessional
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Performed as 'The Glorious Day'
11 Oct 1915 Theatre Royal, Ashton-under-LyneProfessional
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Performed as 'The Glorious Day'
22 Nov 1915 Theatre Royal, SmethwickProfessional
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Performed as 'The Glorious Day'
29 Nov 1915 Theatre Royal, WorcesterProfessional
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Performed under the title 'The Glorious Day'