Great War Theatre

Performances at this Theatre

DateScriptType
N/A Mother GooseUnknown
23 Dec 1914 Jack and the BeanstalkUnknown
22 May 1915 In Time of WarProfessional
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Performed, at least from 22 May until 9 June 1915, probably much longer. Act 1 - The East Coast Village. Act 2 Sc1 The Royal Quarters near the Fighting Line; sc 2 The City in Ruins, Act 3 The Chateau Hospital of the British Forces, Act 4 Sc1 The Shattered Fort; sc 2 The Wireless Telegraphy Station on the Frontier. The many well-known and popular touring dramas from the pen of C.Watson Mill have received scores of favourable notices from us on their visits alike to provincial and to outlying theatres, and now this author is having an example of his work presented for the first time in Central London. In Time of War, produced by the Melville Brothers with success on Saturday night, may fairly be said to have been one of the very earliest of the new War plays, for it was given, in eight scenes, at the Royal, South Shields on September 14, and its approximate date is shown also by internal evidence in the dialogue, the resistance of Liege being mentioned in the opening act; and the fal of Namur being referred to exultantly by Prince Siegried, the War Lord in act two. Mr. Watson Mill tells us, not without reasonable pride, that whilst on tour this play has already been the means of bringing over 4,000 recruits to our forces; and no doubt this number will be largely increased during the run of the piece at the Lyceum, where the patrons that give "the Drama's laws" revel in strong meat, and do not recoil from the almost painfully realistic presentation of every-day scenes from the great War with which we are shocked morning and evening. As a recruiting play In Time of War should owe its success to these harrowing object lessons in "the Gospel of Frightfulness," other now too familiar sentences used being a "contemptible little army" and "the weight of the Mailed Fist," whilst the absurdity of the German goose-step is set off against such typically Hunnish atrocities as the wrecking and pillaging of cities, the violation of the White Flag and the Red Cross, the shooting of prisoners, and the poisoning of wounded British soldiers in a hospital by a German Princess and spy, masquerading as a French lady's maid. "Thick and slab," indeed, therefore, is Mr. Mill's direct contribution to War on the stage. But the piece has other attributes that will strengthen its appeal to audiences at popular playhouses: a vigorously told and effective melodramatic plot runs through it; and it is permeated also by a copious vein of frankly comic relief provided by a couple of wastrels, pals at the outset, who become brave soldiers in our Expeditionary Force, and are good friends until they are both attracted by the same Irish Red Cross nurse. These true comrades, Percy Chumleigh ("Percy, my boy") and Herbert Bruce ('Erb), the one a broken-down sell, made up rather like an American tramp by Mr. herbert Williams, and the other,mm a soldier who had gone to the bad since he served in the South African War, figure very prominently in the action throughout, and become the most popular characters in the play as presented by Mr. Williams and his forcibly humorous coadjutor, Mr. Fred Ingram. For instance, 'Erb, before meeting again his old mother who had been expecting to hear from him by every post for fifteen years, had come across his former commanding officer, Colonel Mars, whose life he had saved, and readily answers the Call to Arms in an East Coast village, together with the speedily regenerated Percy, a local publican and ex-soldier also, Dennis O'Flaherty, and many other village lads, who march on and off to the reiterated strains of "Tipperary." Percy and 'Erb are concerned also in the ducking in a horsepond of Baron von Guggenheim, a German spy, passing as the naturalised Richard Bellairs, whose colleague in the supposedly holy work of labouring for the Vaterland is the Princess already mentioned. However, this so-called "Kitty" was jealous of her comrade's attentions to Diana, the lately married wife of Captain Russell Squires, engaged in the Wireless Telegraphy Department, and entrusted with official plans and a secret wireless code. These are the main objective of the schemes of the Princess and the Baron, who had made love to Diana before her marriage, and had been run through in a sword fight with the Captain on the sands at Monte Carlo. Long before this Diana had written imprudently compromising and foolishly undated letters to the Baron, and on these he had made forged entries of dates subsequent to her marriage. Thus, failing to force Mrs. Squires to let him have access to the secret papers, the pseudo-Bellairs is able, in the accepted way, to convince her husband of her infidelity, the Captain going out to the Front, determined to find death there if he can, and the wife following as a Red Cross nurse. The Lyceum gallery on Saturday behaved very rudely to the stage embodiment of the Kaiser, styled Prince Siegfried, the War Lord, and made up and acted very ably and impressively by Mr. Cecil du Gue. In the Royal quarters behind the firing line the Emperor, after fulminating against the British in the familiar fashion, and receiving but partially satisfactory reports from his agents, the Princess and the Baron, beats a speedy retreat on finding that the guns of the Allies are nearer than he had expected. We next have a very painful and distressing, though effectively staged scene of a city in ruins, and practically deserted save for a wretched woman, heard shrieking for her dead from within a house, for a gallant dispatch-bearing French officer of Chasseurs, and for wounded or dying British soldiers tended by Diana and the singing nurse Alice. The two women are being maltreated by the Baron, now a full-blown officer of the Uhlans, and his men, when they are rescued by the timely arrival of Squires, mars, and their lads in khaki. In the Chateau Hospital scene, next presented, we have much absurd, if diverting, comic business, arising out of the philanderings with Alice and mutual jealousies of 'Erb and Percy, wounded respectively in the hands and the feet, sandwiched with more horrors. The Princess, who, re-appearing as Kitty, had persuaded her former mistress to employ her, rather irregularly, we fear, as assistant nurse, causes many deaths by poisoning the water-filter, and Diana is accused of the crime and forced to resign, until Kitty arouses the Captain's suspicions by carelessly reverting to a Teutonic accent. To avoid arrest she signals to a German airship, which drops a bomb that wrecks the hospital, and is supposed to end the bogus nurse among the debris. However, the Princess turns up again in the last act, where Captain Squires, to save Colonel Mars and a beleaguered British garrison, is sent on a most dangerous mission, to communicate with Headquarters from a Wireless Telegraphy station on the Frontier. Here both Squires, managing skilfully the wireless installation, similar to that already employed successfully by Gilbert Heron in a popular sketch, and his wife, clad as a soldier-boy, are both captured and ill-used by the Baron, still hankering after revenge and the secret code. But Diana contrives to stab him, Squires re-establishes communications with Head-quarters, and the doubly treacherous Baron is sent out, and also rushing off to him before the final reconciliation of the couple ends the play. The Stage, Thursday 27 May 1915
3 Feb 1917 Seven Days LeaveProfessional
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Nightly at 7.45pm, matinees Weds, Thurs and Saturday at 2.30pm.
30 Mar 1917 Ten Dancing PrincessesUnknown
30 Sep 1918 The Female HunUnknown
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Mr Walter Melville's new play, "The Female Hun" is due at the Lyceum on Wednesday. A camp of German prisoners forms an important scene. Miss Annie Baker is the leading lady. (The Globe Monday 30 September 1918).
2 Oct 1918 The Female HunUnknown
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"THE FEMALE HUN" MELVILLE MELODRAMA AT THE LYCEUM AGAIN. We have drunk hotter blood die Lyceum than the draught served last night by Mr. Walter Melville, under the alluring title of "The Female Hun." It is, in short, an ingenious attempt to write a topical melodrama, add it is more topical than dramatic. The story is neither compact nor convincing. Still, there is some fine acting, much admirable sentiment, and a few vivid scenes. The most important factor the Lyceum audience, which brings the theatre in its thousands, knowing just what its fars will be, curiously kind any shortcomings, and pleased with all it gets. If Mr Melville hands out genuine pathos, gets genuine sobs, and if his pathos is bathos, the laughter is just good. The Lyceuym audience never complains of the swings if the roundabouts are well greased - it is just there to enjoy itself, somehow, anyhow. Mr Sam Livesov the figure of "The Female Hun." Sturdy, well-groomed, clear-spoken, and of manly spirit, looks every inch British general. He human, too with eye for a pretty woman, whom he makes his wife, and whom treats with tender chivalry, even though everybody else knows that she is a German spy. When the General finds out just puts revolver shot through her - as Wellington, who had many of his characteristics might have done. Mr Livesey is experienced, earnest, and convincing actor. He makes the character of General Grant sympathetic to the audience - real and appealing, when bad acting might easily have made it absurd. Miss Gladys Mason really suggested the fascination of Female Hun, fine hit of character acting by Mr Leslie Carter has to be mentioned, "Old Contemptible" in tin, way of being done to death in a German prison. He is only on the stage a few mintes - but every minute tells. And now, what boots it record the story? There are many scenes - a barbelwired prison, aerodrome, submarine. All these vivid pictures make their impression. Occasional comment from the gallery punctuated the patriotism. But Mr Melville does not call his effective rhodomontade a propaganda play. And thank him most of all for that! (The Globe Thursday 03 October 1918).
2 Oct 1918 The Female HunUnknown
9 Oct 1918 The Female HunUnknown
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First Nights of the Week. The Female Hun. A play in Four Acts by Walter Melville. Produced at the Lyceum, Wednesday October 2. Captain Dennis Maxwell Mr. Herbert Mansfield Lieut. Eddie Laurence Mr. Bert Randall Private Bill Baxter Mr. Leslie Carter Sergeant Dawson Mr. T. Smith Private Samson Mr. F. Welton Susan Baker Miss Dorrie Eyre Weiss Mr. Phillip Hay John Brown Mr. F. Jocelyn-Powell Voon Stein Mr. Arthur Nicholas Baron Arnheim Mr. O. Diget Grace Pearson Miss E. Mason General Grant Mr. S. Livesey Julian D'Arcy Mr. J. Aubrey Lord Pilcher Mr. Hugh Montgomery George Wilan Mr. Ernest E. Notts Lutz Mr. A. Percy Teplitzer Mr. H. Meara Sir Archibald Blackford Mr Jerrold Manville Betty Blackford Miss Hilda Vaughan Constance Vivian Miss Annie Baker There is plenty of the right stuff for good thrilling melodrama in 'The Female Hun'. Two spies one male and one female. An escape from a prison camp in Germany, stolen plane, the rescue of the heroine from a submarine. To mention only a few, but Mr. Melville has not handled his material with quite his usual self. We could have had some more exciting moments .... had he managed to hold up the German officers with their own revolvers whiie her rescuers crawled through the roof and down the ladder. As it was why they were as they had come down an unanswerable riddle. We should like too to see the Female Hun (newly married to a British General resort to subterfuge why she is caught by her husband listening to an important message). With a dark cloak over her staid dress and the French windows behind her she might have pretended that she had been in the garden to relieve a headache and have only been driven to confession when news of the conversation had been discovered in her possession. Her attempt on the life of her husband and her death at his hands would thus have been worked up to more clearly and with better effect. A super hero We make these suggestions because the material is good enough to be fashioned into better shape. The bed scene takes place in the prison camp in Germany. This is very well done, realistically staged, showing the hero Captain Dennis Maxwell emaciated and desponded cheated by the unfailing optimism of one of the 'Pld Contemptibles' Private Bill Baxter excellently played by Mr. Leslie Carter. It is entirely by Bill's help that Dennis is enabled to don the coat and cap of a German officer and crawl through the barbed wire. The hero reaches England and is reunited to the girl of his heart. Constance Vivian, the General's niece. He is indeed a hero to to be proud of, for not only does he invent the fastest flying aeroplane but he also assists the strategists at their War Conference, and after successfully boarding the enemy submarine he shows a complete mastery of wireless telegraphy. Mr. Herbert Mansfield looks the part - very well and good in the prison scene, but he might let himself go more in the other parts of the play. Reserved acting is thoroughly good in principle but not for Lyceum melodrama. Miss Annie Baxter as Constance has little to do beyond looking delightful and acting sympathetically both of which she does with consummate ease. Miss Gladys Mason is excellent as the villainess though here again there is opportunity for broad acting which is missed. Mr. J.C. Aubrey's villain was a pure joy to us as was the Hung butler of Mr. F. Jocelyn-Powell. It is only because we have such a high opinion of the powers of Mr. Sam Livesey that we consider him wasted in the character of the General for he plays the part such as it is capitally. These three Lyceum favourites Miss Hilda Vaughan, Mr. Bert Randall, and Mr. Jerrold Manville as the three comedy characters enliven the play whenever possible. (The Era October 9, 1918).
13 Oct 1918 The Female HunProfessional
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The Female Hun. Entirely new play by Walter Melville. Matinees Wed., Thurs., Sat., 2.30. Vivid - captivating- realistic. (The People - Sunday 13 October 1918)
16 Nov 1918 The Female HunProfessional
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Probably the reason we like Lyceum plays is because we are idealists. The good people on its stage are as good as we would like to be ourselves - and as we persuade ourselves we should be but for untoward circumstances - while the bad people reveal depths of wickedness which we should be only to glad to discover in the people we hate. Now in real life we are always faling short of our ideals, while our enemies are always disappointing us by not getting sent to prison, all this being rectified at the Lyceum. At other theatres the dramatists struggle to persuade you that you are looking at a picture of real life, whereas the mere fact that there is nearly always a happy ending gives that picture the lie. So why not be frank about it and initiate the Lyceym plan by writing the play all through, instead of merely at the end, as we should like life to be, but as it isn't. For instance in real life, if somebody had a secret you were burning to hear, the ideal thing would be to for him to sit down and tell you all about it. This is what they do at this theatre when the female Hun of the play, talking to nobody but the audience, reveals her spy-ship at once by putting on a Pickelhaube and hissing "I hate the English." At other theatres she would have wasted an infinity of time by sneering, frowning, and eating audibly being all the time tongue-tied by the rule that actors must only think, and not talk when on the stage alone. Then again, the villain, being enamoured of the wealth of the heroine, instead of us at other theatres playing patience on a monument or waiting till he found her alone, blurts out in the presence of other people, "Constance, will you be my wife?" Now very few people have witnessed a proposal of marriage in which they were not concerned, but they would like to. Nor is this Lyceum ideally confined to words, for when an actor has something tender to say, soft music steals upon the senses, and when he has someone to arrest, a martial twang cleaves the air. Now this is not real life, but it is the ideal existence, for do we not love the things around us to respond to the mood of the moment. Should we not glow to have our tearful moments made romantic by "a dying fall" from Beethoven, or thrill to find our election speech periods punctuated by a chord of Handelian finality. And so we go to the Lyceum because we are idealists, to get what the grey cold world denies us. Moreover, there is permission to smoke there. Mr. Walter Melville's play "The Female Hun" tells us of a beautiful wretch named Grace Pearson, who was sent by the Wilhelmstrasse to England to marry a British General - Grant by name. This she successfully did, and so beautiful a young wife did she make her handsome middle-aged husband that it was with something like dismay that we saw her quit this mortal life in Act III, for some of the good people left on stage were not nearly so nice and fetching. The General's butler was also a spy, while his friend Julian D'Arcy, became one in the course of the play, so that life in the General's country house, from which he appeared to direct the operations in France, was altogether tres chaud. When he worked out plans his pretty wife filched them, and no doubt the butler took them by night to a U-boat commander, while D'Arcy stood by for orders from the pair. Meanwhile the General's niece, Constance Vivian was mourning her lover Captain Dennis Maxwell who had been posted as "missing." She was now marking time by growing potatoes with angelic resignation, and Julian D'Arcy, was varying the monotony of his life by proposing to her, as well as casting sheep's eyes at another equally rich young lady named Betty Blackford. At the end of Act I a secret service gentleman advancing down stage said "I arrest that woman as a German spy," and at once annexed Grace, the General's wife. At the end of Act II, the same functionary swooped down on the General's butler with a like statement. In neither case did he deign to inform as to what were his grounds for suspicion, so he kept his service very secret indeed. The butler presumably took up his station on the Hun section of the infernal gridiron, for he was never seen again, but Grace turned up safe and sound in the next Act, having easily persuaded the authorities that her arrest was a stupid mistake. Julian D'Arcy then became very pressing in his suit to Constance Vivian, and was one day cheering her up by saying "Dennis Maxwell is dead," when in walked Dennis himself, having escaped from his prison camp and walked through Germany disguised in an overcoat and a goose step. Being a clever lad he set to work at once and designed the fastest aeroplane in the world, but while he was up above the world so high proving the superiority of his machine, the saint-like Grace slipped into his office and stole his plans. But Constance chanced to enter too, and in the dainty wrestling match which followed virtue rescued the plans from vice. So Grace must needs hie her to that dark cliff where a U-boat captain awaited the plans and her, and explain to him why she hadn't got them. Constance therefore shared the fate of the people who know too much, and was kidnapped and packed on board. Grace who was having a busy night of it, then returned home to listen behind a curtain, while her husband worked out, with a member of the War Cabinet the plans of the next day's attack on the Western Front, Haig and Foch presumably being down with the flu at the time. This must be the big scene of the play, since no death occurs in any other. The interview over the General discovers his wife behind the curtain, and she, instead of saying she had been there looking for her smelling salts, prefers to tell him who she is, and what she is and so gets shot by him for her pains. How many villains has that rash and defiant "Ha, ha."brought to an untidy end. All had now been well had Constance been on terra firma but her going out to sea at night instead of to bed had at least one great advantage.It enabled us to see Dennis Maxwell, accompanied only by Eddie Lawrence, the comic lieutenant of the play, row out and board the U-boat, overcome its crew, and rescue the heroine. In escaping from a German camp Dennis had disguised himself, but he approached the U-boat and captured it in British uniform from an unsuspecting crew, proving what a guileless creature the Hun must be after all forsaking the horrors of "the knife" was there to give us a perfect performance as General Grant; Mr. Herbert Mansfield, graceful and earest as Captain Dennis Maxwell, Mr. P.F. Joynson-Powell as the white-livered butler; Mr. Leslie Carter worthy of far more opportunity than he gets in the one excellent scene as an "old contemtible" in the German camp; and Mr. J.C.Aubrey , as Julian D'Arcy, a heavy villain. The last named actor speaks every line like a school boy saying his lessons, and the author has given him everything to say which is ludicrously crude, so between them the audience gets quite gay. Mr Jerrold Manville's study of conventional old age is a foil to the younger spirits. All this stirring business of what is a good average Lyceum melodrama is well acted. There is Miss Annie Saker as the heroine, deep and soothing of voice, and mothering all nature with the charity of her glance: the ideal woman though here she is debarred from wearing a bathing dress as she did in "Seven Days Leave" when she swam out to a submarine in worlds record time. Miss Gladys Mason fair and false as Grace; Miss Hilda Vaughan playing the child as Betty Blackford the flapper in love with Lieutenant Eddie. Mr Bert Randall as that lively young officer himself privileged to make the house roar with no more a witty line than "nothing like a cup of cold tea when its hot." (The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News November 16, 1918. Our Captious Critic.)
14 Apr 1919 The Female HunProfessional
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The Female Hun Twice daily, at 2.30 & 7.30. New play by Walter Melville. Produced by W. and F. Melville. (The Globe - Monday 14 April 1919)
26 Oct 1921 The Burgomaster Of StilemondProfessional
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Performed on Wednesday and Thursday matinees for the season, by John Martin Harvey returning from his Canadian tour. The season ended around late November/early December.