Young England. A Play in Two Periods.
With Six Illustrations.
First edition, first impression. Scarce in the dust jacket. The publisher’s retained copy with their stamp to the front pastedown. Young England was universally panned by critics on its debut and was deemed the worst play to have appeared on the London stage in decades, but it went on to entertain packed houses for nearly a year. Audiences discovered that this perfectly serious, melodramatic and patriotic hymn of praise to “Young England” in general, and the Boy and Girl Guides in particular, was so excruciatingly bad that it was good. They memorised lines to join in with the cast, calling out alternative lines, giving stage directions and generally falling about laughing as they burlesqued the piece unmercifully. It reached a point where stewards and the author himself patrolled the aisles trying to keep the audience under control. For their part the critics followed the play as it moved from theatre to theatre and happily reviewed the audience participation. When it opened at the Picadilly Theatre the Times critic wrote “The audience are definitely over-rehearsed. They speak their lines in anticipation of their cues and they have an unfortunate tendancy to hurry through their best passages without waiting for the laugh”. Quite extraordinarily the play was revived for a short run at the Holdorn Empire after the outbreak of war in 1939 and although the audience immediately took up its role: “This performance, it must be owned, fell far short of distinction”.
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Octavo. Original brown cloth, spine lettered in blue, white, and red. With the jacket. Portrait frontispiece and 5 plates. Contents and edges slightly foxed; an excellent copy in the bright jacket with some loss and nicks to spine ends.