Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

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2. When Knights Were Bold - Reviews, etc. (1)
(1904 - July, 1907)

welch

[Mr. James Welch as Sir Guy de Vere from When Knights Were Bold.]

 

The Westminster Budget (16 September, 1904 - p.31)

Mr. H. G. Wells’s Play.

     Playgoers are asking what Mr. H. G. Wells’s play is about, and whether it will exploit his philosophical and scientific ideas. Mr. James Welch, for whom the play is being written, tells me (says a Westminster representative) that the piece will be practically a stage version of the author’s own novel “The Wheels of Chance,” published some eight years ago. The first act, however, deals with events previous to the opening of the novel, and the old-man part, which Mr. Welch will play, will reveal a character-study of a very interesting type. Mr. Welch is very thorough in his methods, and after assimilating the character and discussing its development with Mr. Wells he actually “made up” as the old man to show the author his pictorial conception of the part. Mr. Wells was greatly struck with the portrait, and is elaborating his character from thoughts suggested by photographs of Mr. Welch’s counterfeit presentment.

One of Its Features.

     One of the most entertaining scenes in the new play, which Mr. Welch hopes to produce in London next January, will be a musical evening at a house in the country. Mr. George Grossmith has playfully depicted this sort of thing in his Society entertainment, but it is rather new to the drama, though years ago Mr. Pinero hinted at the possibilities of it in “Dandy Dick.” Besides Mr. Wells’s play, Mr. Welch has another piece on hand, written a few years since by Miss Harriet Jay, who collaborated in many plays with the late Mr. Robert Buchanan; and it is also Mr. Welch’s intention to start immediately on tour a series of flying matinées of Mr. George Bernard Shaw’s whimsical comedy “You Never Can Tell.”

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Black and White (28 October, 1905)

     Mrs. Bernard Beere has reappeared as a London actress this week in Mr. Cecil Raleigh’s Spy at the Coliseum, and Miss Harriet Jay will reappear as a London dramatist at Terry’s Theatre early in 1906—she has written a play for Mr. Welch.

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Daily Express (2 May, 1906 - p.7)

     My readers will regret to learn that Mr. James Welch—whose “New Clown” came to an abrupt end at Terry’s Theatre on Saturday night—is very ill with gastritis. He played last Thursday at the Crystal Palace in great pain, and it is supposed that during his clown “business” he severely strained his abdominal muscles. During his absence since then Mr. John Doverell has been playing his part—and doing it excellently; but it was thought expedient to close the theatre on Saturday.
     On his return—which may, I trust, be not long delayed—Mr. James Welch produces Mr. Charles Marlowe’s (Miss Harriet Jay’s) still unnamed comedy, but “Les Cloches des Corneville” must not be expected till the end of the year. The libretto and music of this piece have both undergone modifications at experienced hands. The first scene—on the sea- shore—has been altered, and so has the famous castle—or Gaspard—scene, in which we are promised some striking new effects.

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Daily Express (20 August, 1906 - p.5)

MARRIAGE OF MR. JAMES WELCH.
_____

The marriage of Mr. James Welch and Miss Audrey Ford, who in ordinary life was Miss Amy Fisher, the daughter of Miss Lottie Venne, was announced on Saturday.
     Mr. Welch, one of the cleverest comedians of the day, was formerly the husband of a sister of Mr. Richard Le Gallienne the poet.

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The Daily Mirror (14 September, 1906 - p.7)

     Miss Harriett Jay, whose comedy, “When Knights Were Bold,” is about to be produced at Nottingham by Mr. James Welch, is the sister of Mary Jay, the deceased wife of the late Robert Buchanan. It is rather over twenty years since she dawned on the literary world with an anonymous novel, “My Connaught Cousins,” which was at first attributed to Charles Reade, who spoke of the attribution as “The greatest compliment ever paid to me by the critical Press.” It was followed by “The Priest’s Blessing” and “Two Men and a Maid,” also published anonymously. Then the secret leaked out, and a girl scarcely out of her teens found herself one of the literary heroines of London.

     Miss Jay has had a considerable experience of the stage from more than one point of view. She created the part of Lady Jane Grey in Buchanan’s tragedy, “A Nine Days’ Queen,” and that of the heroine of his Drury Lane drama, “A Sailor and His Lass,” as the hero of which the late Sir Augustus Harris made one of his last appearances as an actor on his own stage. She collaborated with her brother-in-law in the production of several pieces, notably, “The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown,” which ran for over eighteen months at the Vaudeville and Terry’s under the management of Mr. Fred Kerr.

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Daily Express (18 September, 1906 - p.5)

MR. WELCH IN A NEW FARCE.
_____

     Mr. James Welch successfully produced at Nottingham last night a three-act farce, “When Knights Were Bold,” written by “Charles Marlowe,” a name under which Miss Harriet Jay has done work for the stage before.
     The play shows the trials of Sir Guy de Vere, who despises his baronetcy, and is by way of being an amateur Socialist. The second act sees all the characters, with the exception of Sir Guy, transformed into their mediæval prototypes. The unhappy baronet is forced into a suit of armour and a duel, in which he is accidentally successful. After three acts of furious fun every one is made happy.

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The Stage (20 September, 1906 - p.10)

PROVINCIAL PRODUCTIONS

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”

     On Monday, September 17, 1906, at the Royal, Nottingham, Mr. James Welch produced the farce, in three acts, by Charles Marlowe, entitled

When Knights were Bold.

Sir Guy de Vere
Wittle
Barker
Charles Widdicombe
Mr. Isaac Isaacson
Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D.
A Herald
Sir Brian Ballymote
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave
Millicent Eggington
Marjorie Eggington
Kate Pottleberry
Miss Isaacson
Alice Barker
Rowena Eggington

Mr. James Welch
Mr. George F. Tully
Mr. Gordon Tomkins
Mr. Henry J. Ford
Mr. Arthur Grenville
Mr. James Nelson
Mr. Leopold Profeit
Mr. Edward Sass
Miss Emma Gwynne
Miss Estelle Winwood
Miss Enid Sass
Miss Mabel Wentworth
Miss Daisy Cordell
Miss Annie Chippendale
Miss Audrey Ford

     Act one.—“Forty winks.” Sir Guy’s Study (the Knight’s Room), date A.D. 1906. 700 years pass backwards.
Act two:—“A dream of ye good old times.” The Ramparts, A.D. 1196. 700 years pass forward. Act three.—“Wide Awake.” Sir Guy’s Study, A.D. 1906.

     If rollicking fun counts for anything, When Knights were Bold should be successful. The author, or rather authoress, is “Charles Marlowe,” a pseudonym, which, as everybody knows, veils the identity of Miss Harriet Jay. In designing the piece Miss Jay has made remarkably smart use of an old idea—and a very ancient one at that—but there is nothing new under the sun, and in laughing at the absurdities and extravagances of When Knights were Bold one forgets that dream plays have been pretty plentiful these many years past. Without troubling to reflect further, the names of The Bells, Ma Mie Rosette, A Message from Mars, and To-morrow rise to the recollection, and of these the new farce most nearly approximates to the latter, both dealing with events and scenes of long ago. When Knights were Bold, however, lays itself open to no charge of plagiarism. Except in the sense that all farces are more or less alike in their boisterous exuberance, Miss Jay’s latest work is, in the manner of its unfolding, original enough. It will be all the better for some building up, particularly in the third act, which is extremely attenuated, and doubtless Mr. Welch’s fertile brain will ere long devise some means of strengthening the concluding portion of the play.
     Sir Guy de Vere, slight of frame and short of stature, is entertaining a party of friends at his ancestral home, Beechwood Towers. He acres nothing for the traditions which cluster so thickly round the old castle, and the devotion of his cousin, Rowena Eggington, for “the good old times” finds no echo in his heart, ardently though he adores her. The lady’s continuous chatter about the days of chivalry frankly bore him, and he seeks relief in a flirtation with handsome Sarah Isaacson, the daughter of Isaac Isaacson, a rich Throgmorton Street Jew, while Rowena, on her part, finds Sir Brian Ballymote (a boastful, adventuring Irish baronet) a congenial consoler. Isaacson is delighted at the turn taken by events, for he would like to see his daughter married to Sir Guy, and he enlists the assistance of the Rev. Dr. Pottleberry, an impecunious cleric, in furthering the match. With his brain whirling with echoes of “the glorious past,” so persistently dinned into his ears by Rowena, Sir Guy goes to sleep in his study—the “Knight’s” room—and in his dream time spins back seven hundred years, and the twentieth-century scion of the house of de Vere, clad in up-to-date broadcloth and fine linen, walks among the mail-clad figures of the twelfth century, receiving the homage of retainers attired in the picturesque costume of the Middle Ages. The whole of the second act is devoted to the representation of this dream, and it is a conglomeration of the most uproariously funny incidents which could possible be imagined. Rowena, now a novice, appears in conventional garb to beseech the aid of Sir Guy to save her from being carried off by Sir Brian, and some screaming fun is extracted from a duelling scene between the rivals in armour. Isaacson and Sarah are introduced as Isaac of York and his lovely daughter, immured in one of the Tower dungeons, threatened with torture, and pursued by the implacable hatred of the former Dean, now a Friar of Orders Grey, and living up to his monkish predecessors in their detestation of the Hebrew race. The previously tender-hearted Rowena, too, is now a vengeful Saxon maiden, full of a similarly vitriolic dislike for the chosen people. With Sir Guy, in his immaculate evening dress, the centre of this motley crew, heroically defending the Isaacsons, the whole thing is screaming farce, admirably acted by everyone concerned. In the third act Sir Guy wakes up, but the influence of his dream is still strong upon him, and he feigns madness, talking in the stilted language of the Middle Ages and laying about him with a great, two-handled Crusader sword. This has the desired effect. Rowena is cured of her mediæval predilection, Sir Brian is sent to the rightabout, and all ends happily.
     Mr. James Welch plays Sir Guy magnificently. His capacity for detail has never been more happily exemplified, and on Monday he kept the audience in roars of laughter. He conveys the suggestion of modernity and, maintaining the note unfalteringly against the background of mediæval manners, admirably and easily secures the sharply contrasted effect necessary to the success of this portion of the play. Miss Audrey Ford makes a handsome Rowena, to the statuesque poses of which character she lent both charm and distinction. She delivered the rounded periods with good elocution, and very tellingly declaimed an exacting speech in the second act. Mr. Edward Sass is an amusing if somewhat gruff Irishman, and Mr. Arthur Grenville gives an artistic portrayal of Isaacson; Miss Daisy Cordell, as Sarah Isaacson, plays the part very prettily, while Miss Estelle Winwood is a piquant Millicent, and Miss Emma Gwynne a handsome Mrs. Waldegrave. Mr. Henry J. Ford’s Mr. Widdicombe is pleasantly humorous, and his jester’s song and dance in the second act delighted the audience. Mr. Gordon Tomkins is well within the picture as Barker, the butler, and Mr. George F. Tully is responsible for a clever embodiment of Wittle, the valet. Mr. James nelson is appropriately staid and sententious as the Dean, and Mr. Leopold Profeit is efficient in the small part of the Herald. Miss Annie Chippendale’s Alice Barker, the housemaid, is an agreeable performance, and Miss Enid Sass and Miss Mabel Wentworth are effective in ingenue parts. There was a large and extremely friendly audience, and the new piece had a most enthusiastic reception. Hearty calls were given for Mr. Welch.

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The Stage (4 October, 1906 - p.4)

     CARDIFF—ROYAL (Lessee and Manager, Mr. R. Redfred).—Mr. Redfred’s catering for the Cardiff public could not be excelled, what with Shakespeare’s works, musical comedy, and now this week an exceedingly funny and humorous comedy from the pen of Harriet Jay, When Knights Were Bold. Mr. James Welch, of New Clown fame, plays the principal part, and keeps the house in continual laughter. Miss Audrey Ford is admirably suited to the part of Rowena. Mr. Edward Sass is buoyant and cheery as the Irish baronet, Sir Brian Ballymote. Miss Daisy Cordell is well suited as Sarah Isaacson. Miss Enid Sass and Miss Mabel Wentworth are delightful in the ingenue parts. Miss Annie Chippendale lends admirable assistance as the Housemaid. Miss Emma Gwynne looks and acts well as Mrs. Waldegrave. Miss Estelle Winwood is a piquant Millicent. Mr. Gordon Tomkins is a Butler. Mr. Henry J. Ford is most humorous as Mr. Widdicombe; his song and dance are well appreciated in the second act. Mr. Arthur Grenville gives a finished performance of Isaacson. Mr. G. F. Tully, Mr. James Nelson, and Mr. Leopold Profeit are well placed in their parts.

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The Guardian (20 November, 1906 - p.7)

PRINCE’S THEATRE

MR. JAMES WELCH IN A NEW FARCE.

     It is said that Mr. Welch is one of the comedians with an ambition to melt or to harrow us, but if it be so he does not make much headway against his destiny. And really those who saw him again last night will hardly be disposed to spare him for the serious drama. Nor can he, as some misjudged authors do, come out anonymously, for his personality is too distinguished for disguise. There is distinction in his acting of these wild farces, one of the wildest of which is Mr. Charles Marlowe’s “When Knights were Bold.” Perhaps the critic, who, after all, is supposed to maintain a sense of responsibility, is at some comparative disadvantage with this type of play, but we did not reason with our enjoyment last evening. Mr. Welch is always good, but from time to time he gets us under complete control, and the most frigid of us relaxes into the joy of laughter. He does it all very easily—too easily, perhaps, for, as the sportsman would say, he is never really extended except in a physical or vocal sense. Sometimes the members of his company laugh at him in the wrong places, but we may believe that he will forgive them.
     Mr. Marlowe’s play is not a very complex affair. His Sir Guy de Vere is a baronet with a reprehensible want of dignity, and the portentous Rowena, a character somewhat heavily handled by the dramatist, spurs him on to impracticable attempts at romance of the upholstery kind. Sir Guy’s violent cold in the head is dramatically justifiable, for a consequence is the enormous doses of hot whisky which send him to a troubled sleep. We have a glimpse into the dark backward of time, and the dream of the second act gives us Sir Guy in a state of prime bedevilment, with a fine set of mediæval surroundings. A young gentleman in evening dress among seneschals, men-at-arms, and such like strikes one as unpromising, and this act did not kindle us immediately. But Mr. Welch prevailed, for he became furiously and unreasonably funny. Even his horseplay had a temperance that gave it smoothness, and his seeming violence was not without a fine precision of effect. The dream is a valuable experience for Sir Guy. He gives his friends the good old times in terms of raving lunacy, and we take it that after this brisk interlude they will be glad to see him conduct his own modest career. But the characters of farce leave us no afterthoughts. They are obliterated by the curtain.
     Mr. Marlowe’s play is a sufficiently ingenious affair, and it provides a great number of scoring points, which is the prime necessity. A dim remnant of critical conscience suggests that Mr. Welch is too good for it, and it would be very interesting to see his admirable talent supported by some of the real stuff of comedy. Such considerations are faint and theoretical, and we have much to be thankful for. The other actors did well or well enough, and a performance of Mr. Brookfield’s little farce, “The Lady Burglar,” helped to put the audience in good humour.
                                                                                                                                                         A. N. M.

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Daily Express (9 January, 1907 - p.7)

     After “Toddles” at Wyndham’s—as announced in this journal yesterday—comes Mr. James Welch in his big provincial success, “When Knights Were Bold.” Part of this comedy has been re-written—the last act has been improved, and the piece generally strengthened.

welchfordpc

The Sketch (30 January, 1907 - p.5)

sketchknightspic1

(p.18)

HEARD IN THE GREEN-ROOM

IT is but seldom that an actor has the opportunity of playing in two pieces of the same name. That, nevertheless, might have been the lot of Mr. James Welch, for Miss Jay’s farcical comedy, “When Knights Were Bold,” was originally called “The Good Old Times.” That title happens, however, to have been applied to a play written by Mr. Wilson Barrett and Mr. Hall Caine in the days of old when Mr. Welch was a young member of the company of the famous actor-manager. It was therefore obviously impossible for him to use it. Of that play Mr. Welch tells an amusing incident. One scene took place on board a boat on a river between the characters represented by Mr. Barrett himself, Mr. Cooper Cliffe, and Mr. Robert Pateman. To convey the impression of movement, a panorama over a hundred yards in length was used. Unhappily, however, it did not run evenly, and at times it would come to a dead stop. To restart it, it was necessary to roll back several feet of the canvas, and then set the machinery going quickly in the proper direction, so as to get past the obstruction. This, as may be imagined, was always a source of great amusement to the audience. One night, when the voyage had been even less successful than usual, and Mr. Barrett could stand it no longer, he exclaimed, “I will get out here and meet you at the next point.” Suiting the action to the word, he got off the boat and walked to the next point—off the stage—and presumably on the surface of the water.
     The other actors looked at one another and went on rowing. Presently, however, the canvas stopped again. It was a more serious hitch than had occurred before. The order was given to reverse the machinery, and back the scenery rolled. As soon as it started, Mr. George Barrett, who had the oars, saw his opportunity, and began to back water vigorously. It was realism run riot. It did not, however, prevent the audience laughing.

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The Times (30 January, 1907 - p.6)

WYNDHAM’S THEATRE.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”
An original Farce, in Three Acts,
By C
HARLES MARLOWE.

Sir Guy de Vere, Bart.
Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Sir Brian Ballymote
Isaac Isaacson
Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D.
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave
Miss Sarah Isaacson
Alice Barker
Lady Rowena Eggington

Mr. JAMES WELCH
Mr. HENRY J. FORD
Mr. CHARLES WEIR
Mr. ARTHUR GRENVILLE
Mr. GUY LANE
Miss EMMA GWYNNE
Miss DAISY CORDELL
Miss ANNIE CHIPPENDALE
Miss AUDREY FORD

     In a recent book of serene and pensive charm Mr. Henry Newbolt dwelt on the unbroken continuity of past and present, or rather the essential identity of them. He showed how false is the usual contrast of old and new, and that in the days we now call romantic, “when knights were bold,” the same forces were at work as agitate the world of to-day. The curious in comparisons may set against Mr. Newbolt’s development of this theme the very different contrast of old and new which is the root-idea of “Charles Marlowe’s” new farce, When Knights Were Bold. Here a country-house party of to-day are shown transformed into their ancestors of 1196; and the point of the transformation is that everything is changed save the names, so that the retainers of Sir Guy de Vere, under Richard Lion Heart, are quite unable to understand the odd, little, cigarette-smoking figure in evening dress, who is the Sir Guy of seven centuries later. They think him the victim of some magic spell; he thinks they have all dressed up “for a lark.” It is a facile contrast, of course, and an idea that is neither new nor (as Mr. Newbolt’s readers must be persuaded) true; but an idea of any kind in farce is something to be grateful for, and it must be added that, within the limits of uproarious farce, “Charles Marlowe” has worked the idea out skilfully enough. But far more important in this matter than the playwright’s skill is the droll personality of Mr. James Welch. His peevish expostulations with the retainers who persist in addressing him in blank verse, his embarrassment when called upon to don a suit of mail and fight a hostile knight, his misery under the ancient Joe Millerisms of his faithful jester—indeed, all his whims and antics—provide capital fun. If the “modern” scenes of the farce are not so funny, that is because Mr. Welch plays a less important part in them. But one must not be too fastidious over farce, and it was evident enough last night that the audience was on the whole heartily amused.

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The Guardian (30 January, 1907 - p.7)

WYNDHAM’S THEATRE.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”

LONDON, TUESDAY.

     Miss Harriet Jay (or Charles Marlowe, as she calls herself, thus making an exception to the universal George or John of lady writers’ pseudonyms) got hold of an amusing farcical idea in “When Knights were Bold.” The nineteenth-century aristocrat (since he played “Mr. Hopkinson” Mr. James Welch’s parts are all aristocrats) who dreams himself into the twelfth century but in his nineteenth-century clothes offers plenty of opportunities for fooling, especially when the mediæval characters of his dream are the ancestors of his actual friends and servants. We have the usual fun with a suit of armour and a hand-to-hand fight, and the usual burlesque of Shaksperean blank verse as the common talk of the dream- characters. The piece recalls some incidents in Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Knight of the Burning Pestle,” which Miss Jay had possibly read or seen. But unfortunately it has none of the character of literary burlesque which supplies most of the humour of the older play. Instead of it Mr. Welch tumbles over his sword and says “Gadzooks” and “Forsooth,” all very loud and a great many times. It is fairly amusing for simple tastes, but it might easily have been made more so.
                                                                                                                                                                       P.C.

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The Stage (31 January, 1907 - p.16)

LONDON THEATRES.
_____

WYNDHAM’S.

     On Tuesday evening, January 29, 1907, Mr. Frank Curzon “presented” here Mr. James Welch and his company in an original farce, in three acts, by Charles Marlowe, entitled:—

When Knights Were Bold.

Isaac Isaacson
Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D.
Sir Brian Ballymote
Miss Sarah Isaacson
Wittle
Sir Guy de Vere, Bart.
Barker
Lady Millicent Eggington
Lady Marjorie Eggington
Kate Pottleberry
Lady Rowena Eggington
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave
Alice Barker
A Herald

Mr. Arthur Grenville
Mr. Henry J. Ford
Mr. Guy Lane
Mr. Charles Weir
Miss Daisy Cordell
Mr. George F. Tully
Mr. James Welch
Mr. Gordon Tomkins
Miss Estelle Winwood
Miss Enid Sass
Miss Vivienne West
Miss Audrey Ford
Miss Emma Gwynne
Miss Annie Chippendale
Mr. Leopold Profeit

Act one.—The Knights’ Room, Beechwood Towers, 1906 (“Forty Winks”). 710 years pass backwards. Act two.— The Battlements, 1196 (“A Dream of ye Good Olde Times”). 710 years pass forwards. Act three.—The Knights’ Room. 1906 (“Wide Awake”).

     Mr. James Welch, who has not had a fixed local habitation in the West-End since his stay at Terry’s, during which he produced The Heroic Stubbs and A Judge’s Memory, and revived The New Clown, resumed operations in central London, at Wyndham’s, on Tuesday, when he presented When Knights Were Bold, a farce by Charles Marlowe (Harriet Jay) which has gained popularity on tour. When Knights Were Bold was produced at the Royal, Nottingham, September 17, 1906, and reached the Grand, Croydon, on the following October 29. At Wyndham’s Mr. Welch is again supported by Miss Audrey Ford and nearly all the members of the former cast, the company being fully capable of giving adequate interpretation to a Dream play that has a genuinely comic root idea, as contrasted with the tragic theme of The Bells, the didactic tendency of A Message From Mars, the pathetic interest of Uncle Dick’s Darling, and so on. Scott’s novel “Ivanhoe,” which has before now been treated seriously upon the stage, has formed the groundwork of Miss Harriet Jay’s farce, and several of the characters of the book re-appear, mutatis mutandis, in the play. Thus Sir Walter’s hero becomes a very modern young man of ancient lineage, Sir Guy de Vere, with an ultra-romantic cousin in Rowena Eggington, who is continually dinning into his ears the doughty deeds of the former chivalrous occupants of the Knights’ Room at Beechwood Towers. Again, Rebecca and her father, Isaac of York, find re-incarnation in Sarah Isaacson and her sire, Isaac Isaacson, a Throgmorton-street financier. The Dean of Beechwood, the Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D., stands for Peter the Monk; the Seneschal is replaced by Barker the butler; the Jester is represented by Charles Widdicombe, a would be funny man; and the bold, bad Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert is transformed into a boastful and card-sharping adventurer of an Irish baronet, Sir Brian Ballymote. Made quite sick of the glorious past by the lucubrations of Rowena, Sir Guy, in 1906, turns for a change to Miss Isaacson, whose father regards him as an excellent match; and, similarly, the neglected Rowena begins to find Sir Brian an agreeable companion. Tired out by the doubtful enjoyment of a day’s shooting in the rain, and suffering from a bad cold, Sir Guy drops off to sleep in his study so full of ancient memories, the Knights’ Room, and in his dream things become much as they were 710 years back, the time 1196 being specified. The young baronet is surrounded by mediæval retainers in gay costumes and coats of mail, this second act taking place upon the Ramparts. Here, with Sir Guy still wearing at first the evening dress in which he fell asleep, some funnily incongruous events take place. The romantic Rowena of the opening ought to have had her heart’s desire satisfied, for she becomes a novice, persecuted by Sir Brian, and her appeal to Sir Guy to rescue her leads up to a burlesque duel, both knights being now clad in shining armour, until Sir Guy finds “mailed fists” more efficacious. Further, the twentieth century Isaacsons are plunged back into the dangers that of old beset their race in England before their expulsion by Edward I., for, in their former manifestations as Isaac of York and Rebecca, they are made captives in one of the deepest dungeons of the Towers, and are threatened with torture and a fearful death by a Jew-baiting monk, who here takes the place of the accommodating Pottleberry. Hoping to be rescued herself, Rowena is again adept in the art of “egging on,” this time against the unfortunate Hebrews, and Sir Guy’s posturing in the rôle of their valiant defender makes an effective scene. The working out takes place in act three, which was originally rather weak. Seven hundred and ten years pass forward and Sir Guy is once more found “wide awake” in his study, in 1906, the baffling of Sir Brian and the winning back of Rowena’s temporarily-lost affections being the main points aimed at by the authoress. As Sir Guy arises from his dream he is heard shouting “Victory!” and seen belabouring an ancestral suit of armour. The affright of all the household makes him determine to give them “the good old times” in earnest, the dreadfully modern and slangy young man of act two becoming a turbulent, scowling, mouthing creature. Then Rowena begins to get weary of the past herself, and the cowardice of Sir Brian in refusing to “tackle” an apparently raving lunatic puts him out of court with her, his discomfiture being completed by his being proved to have cheated at bridge, and to have plotted with Isaacson to have secured Rowena for his wife.
     At times the fun in When Knights Were Bold seems a little laboured, and the humour rather obvious and extravagant; but still the piece affords plenty of harmless amusement, and it was received very cordially on Tuesday, when Mr. James Welch, backed up by the zealous efforts of his company, worked with even more than his usual energy alike as a comedian, as a pantomimist, and even as an acrobat. He emphasised capitally the contrast between the weak-kneed representative of this century (as shown in Sir Guy’s dallying with young girls in act one) and the valiant hero of the dream that is continued after the real awakening has come; and throughout he made this red-haired baronet a most entertaining character, although we have seen him play with more moderation and self-restraint. Also assuming red hair, Miss Audrey Ford made an imposing and picturesque Rowena; and as the novice she delivered very effectively a rather trying speech. In the second act, it should be noted, most of the characters drop into blank verse, which sets off oddly Sir Guy’s slang of the present day; and in this connection one should praise especially Mr. George F. Tully, transformed, as Wittle the valet, into a cringing “varlet,” who seems to enjoy being bullied as much as the similarly metamorphosed Alice Barker (brightly played by Miss Annie Chippendale) apparently likes giving her master seigniorial rights. Mr. Gordon Tomkins, too, was excellent both as butler and as Seneschal; and the bland and suave-toned Dean, as portrayed by Mr. Guy Lane at first, became a violent “prattling prelate” in the attempt to persecute the Jews. At this point Mr. Welch’s burlesque wrestling bout with Mr. Arthur Grenville (who had at the outset given ably sinister and masterful traits to his picture of the scheming financier) seemed less legitimate than the “polishing off” of Sir Brian by punching him to exhaustion, in spite of his armour. Sir Brian is but a poor part, but Mr. Charles Weir gave it clever touches of Irish brogue and blarney. Miss Daisy Cordell was very intelligent, and also pleasing as Sarah Isaacson. Miss Emma Gwynne was comely and dignified as Rowena’s aunt, Mrs. Waldegrave, who becomes the Prioress. The younger Eggington girls had engaging exponents in Misses Estelle Winwood and Enid Sass, with support from Miss Vivienne West, a youthful Kate Pottleberry. Mr. Henry J. Ford, although he had some very old jokes to crack both as Widdicombe and the Jester, must be commended for his clever rendering of a song (by Percy Greenbank), with dance to follow, in act two. Mr. Leopold Profeit looked well as Sir Brian’s menacing Herald. The tableaux, showing mediæval knights and damsels, preceding and following the Dream, were represented with some effect, and the Old-World touches in Brigata Bucalossi’s incidental music were brought out well by the minor members of the company. When Knights Were Bold is well staged and dressed, the scenery being by Bruce Smith. In lieu of a first piece at Wyndham’s, Mr. Frederic Norton once more gives a musical monologue that proves acceptable.

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The Illustrated London News (2 February, 1907 - p.14)

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The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (2 February 1907 - p.7)

LATE THEATRES.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD,” AT WYNDHAM’S.

     THE dream-play, perhaps because it is ex hypothesi so little convincing in its action, has fallen in these prosaic realistic days somewhat out of fashion. For anything like serious sentiment its scheme is no doubt not too well suited, but, after all, it fits in very fairly with the requirements of farcical fun, such as that expected of a comedian like Mr. James Welch. So, at any rate, seems to have thought the lady who, writing under the pseudonym of Charles Marlowe, has made the hero of her play Sir Guy de Vere, Bart., dream very amusingly indeed. What kind of vision it is that Sir Guy experiences may be guessed from the fact that while enjoying forty winks in the Knights’ Room of Beechwood Towers in 1906, he is transported to those “days of old” when, on The Battlements, in 1895, there was a call for deeds of chivalry very unlike any demanded of the “warrior bold” of to-day. As set forth in the second act—after a backward lapse of 710 years—these deeds have been found so mirth-provoking in the provinces, that with the aid of Mr. Frank Curzon, Mr. Welch has found at Wyndham’s a stage for them in London, where on Tuesday evening they were received with shouts of laughter, which seem likely to echo for many weeks to come.
     The first act is tiresome, and much too long in setting for the circumstances in which Sir Guy, a young baronet of ancient lineage, but of the modern “Mr. Hopkinson” type, falls asleep after being rallied by his relations, and particularly by his cousin, Lady Rowena, upon his lack of family pride and old-world romance. The third act winds up the story perfunctorily enough; but the second, with Mr. Welch’s comic little Sir Guy as a Knight in armour, burlesquing the mediæval methods of “Ivanhoe,” using strange oaths, and trying hard to catch the spirit of his twelfth-century surroundings—all this is really screamingly funny, alike in invention and in execution. It will draw all laughter-loving London to shout with merriment over its brave incongruities, which fit Mr. Welch’s dry personality to perfection, and which find another capital exponent in Miss Audrey Ford, as the haughty damsel who inspires the deeds of valour wherein the titled cockney displays such droll humour.

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The Observer (3 February, 1907)

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD” AT WYNDHAM’S.

     For young gentlemen asked to bring their music with them to evening parties “The Warrior Bold” used some years ago to be a favourite, and indeed an almost inevitable, selection. Many of us when listening to Stephen Adams’s martial strain as carolled forth by the reedy voice of a weedy youth must have been struck by the delightful incongruity of the performance; and it is this incongruity which seems to have suggested to Mr. Charles Marlowe—otherwise Miss Harriet Jay—the motive of her farce “When Knights were Bold.” Take a small, insignificant, red-headed baronet with an ancient lineage and a modern dinner jacket; place him amongst his armoured retainers of the days of old; make him pipe out the ringing defiance of a Crusader with the whine of a Cockney accent; let him protect maidens in distress less acute than his own, fight the good fight in a singularly uncomfortable cuirass, and burlesque in the slangy realism of to-day the formal chivalry of a day gone by. You will then have the notion of the joke of incongruity which at Wyndham’s Theatre now has Welch in Armour for its central figure. It is a capital joke so far as it goes, though it does not go quite far enough to save from tedium a long first act of preparatory explanation and a shorter third one of perfunctory rectification. If, however, Sir Guy de Vere is rather a dull little dog as the host of a noisy house party at Beechwood Towers in 1906, he is such a droll dog on the battlements of Beechwood Towers in 1196 that he seems certain to draw all mirth-loving London to laugh over his comicalities. He is so funny when he is dreaming that one forgives him for being a trifle tiresome when he is awake, and one may certainly do worse than drop in at Wyndham’s for an hour at half-past nine or so just to enjoy Mr. Welch’s vision of mediæval valour without troubling much about either its cause or its effect. He works tremendously hard over it and makes quite the most of possibilities which would have been much greater if Sir Guy’s nightmare had been less consistent in remaining mere horseplay after all. His most useful supporter is Miss Audrey Ford, whose travesty of the high-flown romance of a twentieth century Rowena is very good indeed.

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The Sketch (6 February, 1907 - p.10)

THE STAGE FROM THE STALLS.
By E. F. S.
(“Monocle.”)

. . .

     The reappearance of Mr. James Welch at Wyndham’s Theatre was very welcome, and there was a hearty round of applause when he came on as the dapper little Sir Guy de Vere. Since he is supposed to belong to an ancient and honourable family I do not know why he chose to adopt a rather common style, that no doubt enhanced the humours of a remarkably clever comic performance, yet seemed outside the scheme of the play; possibly his answer would be that “When Knights were Bold” is only a scheme, and not exactly a play, and that he was therefore entitled to a free hand. This sounds very true; regarded as a play, the work of “Charles Marlowe” is naught, but it gives one of our cleverest and most fertile low-comedians a capital opportunity of showing his capacity for entertaining an audience by the hour. Worshippers of music-hall stars, when comparing them with performers in the legitimate and explaining their failure in the ordinary theatres, point out that their work is essentially self-centred and intensely concentrated—that they put the whole vitality of a day into a few minutes, and are at sea when asked to spread their work over a couple of hours or so. Mr. Welch showed the intensity of work typical of the music-hall artist, but he spread it over two hours and a half without obvious diminution of intensity. It was, I think, the most wonderful piece of sustained high-pressure acting that I recollect, and everywhere marked by clever little bits of “business,” by skill in execution that gave a pleasure to the critical entirely apart from the dramatic value of the performance.

     Moreover, the author has given full scope for wild fun in the act where the twentieth-century degenerate, with a spark of warm blood in him, finds himself back in the times of the peculiarly un-English king, Richard Cœur de Lion, and endeavours, despite his modern ideas, to accommodate himself to the brutal manners of the twelfth century. Among those who supported Mr. Welch it is but fair to mention Miss Audrey Ford, quite effective as his sweetheart; Miss Daisy Cordell, and Messrs. H. J. Ford and G. F. Tully.

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The Illustrated London News (9 February, 1907 - p.37)

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD,”
AT WYNDHAM’S.

“When Knights Were Bold,” a farce written by “Charles Marlowe” and recently produced at Wyndham’s Theatre, is a stale and rather dreary specimen of the mock-heroic play. While the basis of the play is the contrast between the diminutive stature and frail physique of a young Baronet of the present year of grace and the chivalric notions associated with hi title of Sir Guy de Vere, the author gets no nearer carrying through this idea than by making her ultra-modern and puny hero overcome his love-rival by fisticuffs in a dream, which takes the action back seven hundred years; and then, when the awakening comes, order this adventurer out of the house on a charge of cheating at cards. The main difference between Mr. James Welch and Mr. Weedon Grossmith in this kind of unromantic rôle consists in the fact that Mr. Grossmith represents Cockney as opposed to “genteeler” humour, and assumes a certain imperturbability for which Mr. Welch’s substitute is a degree of nervous vigour. Frankly, however, we are little more impressed by the leading player’s performance in Miss Jay’s farce than by the play itself. Mr. Welch, as the Sir Guy who loathes the very mention of the “days of old,” has little more to do in the first act than to sneeze in the face of the other characters, and even in the play’s final passages, where the baronet feigns madness in a mood of reincarnate knighthood, the author’s scheme allows the actor but few amusing moments.

winwood

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”

                                         MISS ENID SASS                     MISS VIVIENNE WEST                MISS ESTELLE WINWOOD
                                     as “LADY MARJORIE”            as “KATE POTTLEBERRY”                as “LADY MILLICENT”

 

The Daily Mirror (16 February, 1907 - p.8)

“A BOLD KNIGHT” MR JAMES WELCH

A COMEDIAN HARASSED BY MANUSCRIPTS.

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The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (16 February, 1907 - p.21)

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The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (23 February, 1907 - p.18)

OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC.

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The Sketch (27 February, 1907 - p.18)

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The Illustrated London News (20 April, 1907 - p.2)

“A BOATSWAIN’S MATE,” AT WYNDHAM’S.

A CHARACTERISTIC instance of Mr. W. W. Jacobs’ genial, irresistible humour, full of laughable situations and neat portraiture, is the little one-act play adapted by Mr. H. C. Sargent and the author from Mr. Jacobs’ short story entitled “A Boatswain’s Mate.” The scene of the piece, of course, is a rural inn, and there is an attractive landlady to gain whose affection the sailorman hero of the tale resorts to stratagems. Every reader of Mr. Jacobs’ stories knows how invariably those stratagems of his enamoured captains or mates or boatswains go wrong, and last Monday night’s audience at Wyndham’s, to which the play was first introduced, was fully prepared to find that the boatswain’s idea of getting a discharged soldier to pretend to “burgle” the bar so that to the sailor might fall the distinction of effecting a rescue would be foiled by some unexpected contingency. In point of fact the landlady, so far from feeling timorous, proves an Amazon, and after many droll complications it is the soldier and not the boatswain who wins the lady’s heart. Very happy is Mr. Tully in the rôle of the rollicking soldier who volunteers to be the boatswain’s ally, and if Miss Ethel Hollingshead fails somewhat to suggest the landlady’s unctuous vulgarity; if, too, Mr. W. E. Richardson does not vary sufficiently the oddities of the boatswain, both work hard for a farce that almost acts itself. “A Boatswain’s Mate” is played in front of Charles Marlowe’s fantastic comedy, “When Knights Were Bold,” in which Mr. James Welch still figures in the leading part.

[Note: W. W. Jacobs is probably best known today for his short story, ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, which has been filmed several times, and I make no apology for recommending this particular adaptation: Jenny Ringo and the Monkey’s Paw.]

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The English Illustrated Magazine (June, 1907)

     “When Knights were Bold” at Wyndham’s Theatre presents a very good example of the finishing process which, in our day, is so frequently postponed till after the pulse of an audience has been felt at a few public productions. Especially if a play is a farce, the comedian who is its mainstay rarely feels the full capabilities of his part on the first or second night. Mr. James Welch, if not “a fellow of infinite jest,” has imagination, invention and humour, and he has applied all these qualities to getting a good deal more fun out of the part of Sir Guy de Vere than was apparent in the early days of the production. Of course, there comes a smile to the lips at the mere suggestion of Mr. James Welch impersonating the modern representative of a long line of august and haughty ancestors. Knowing his methods as we do, we foresee the broad humour of the contrast he will give us, his banal modernity, his outrageous violations of all the sacred traditions of his House—all the trebly-panoplied reserve of aristocratic prejudice. Sufficient to say that he realises our anticipations. His Sir Guy de Vere is neither sturdy oak nor polished rosewood; it is very plain deal with no superficial veneer even. He is a plague, a thorn, a monstrous idiosyncrasy in the view of the other and normal de Veres. The antagonism is most diverting, but a little of it goes a long way, and too much is apt to become tedious without great inventive ingenuity on the part of the author in providing diversity of situation, and that ingenuity Mr. Charles Marlowe has not sufficiently shown. The first act dragged a little towards its close in the early days of the play, but it goes better now. It has been tightened, and Mr. Welch has filled it out with a broader appreciation of its possibilities, and the play being a farce these liberties are justified. The second act is pure burlesque, the visual representation of a dream. Sir Guy is no longer in the twentieth century but in the twelfth. He is still in garb and speech and habits of thought and action a modern, but all his surroundings, his relations and friends, the very atmosphere of life about him, are of the time of Richard the Lion-hearted. The fun becomes uproarious, the absurdities side-splitting. Then in the last act we have Sir Guy awake again, but retaining so vivid an impression of the topsy-turvy drama of his dream that now the incongruity is shifted from him to his environment. He still breathes the air of a mediæval England, and his relations and friends are hopelessly modernised. Such is the frame-work of “When Knights were Bold,” on which has been draped so many grotesque and laughable fantasies, that it becomes a kind of summer madness, not a thing to be written of seriously.
     A little play by W. W. Jacobs and Herbert C. Sargent, called “The Boatswain’s Mate,” precedes “When Knights were Bold.” It has the peculiar quality of Mr. Jacobs’s well-known humour, the humour that devises unexpected rebuffs and most disconcerting routs for the schemers in his little stories, and serves its purpose admirably as a prelude to the evening’s hilarious entertainment.

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[From The English Illustrated Magazine (July, 1907).]

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[From The Sketch (24 July, 1907 - p.18).]

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3. When Knights Were Bold - Reviews, etc. (August, 1907-1909)

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