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Aldwych farce


The Aldwych farces were a series of twelve stage farces presented at the Aldwych Theatre, London, nearly continuously from 1923 to 1933. All but three of them were written by Ben Travers. They incorporate and develop British low comedy styles, combined with clever word-play. The plays were presented by the actor-manager Tom Walls and starred Walls and Ralph Lynn, supported by a regular company that included Robertson Hare, Mary Brough, Winifred Shotter, Ethel Coleridge and Gordon James.

The farces were so popular that touring companies were sent to present them in the British provinces. Most of the Aldwych farces were adapted for film in the 1930s, starring the original stage casts as far as possible. The plays were later seen in television versions, and some enjoyed revivals.

Leslie Henson and Tom Walls co-produced the farce Tons of Money in 1922 at the Shaftesbury Theatre. This was a great popular success, running for nearly two years, and they collaborated again, moving to the Aldwych Theatre. Walls secured a cheap, long-term lease on the theatre, which had fallen so far out of fashion with playgoers that it had been used as a YMCA hostel during the First World War.

The first in the Aldwych farce series was It Pays to Advertise, which ran for nearly 600 performances. Meanwhile, Ben Travers's first play, The Dippers, based on his 1920 novel of the same name, was produced and directed by Sir Charles Hawtrey. It became a success on tour from 1921 and in another London theatre in 1922.Lawrence Grossmith had acquired the rights to Travers's farce A Cuckoo in the Nest and sold them to Walls.


Title Opening Closing Perfs. Plot and notes
It Pays to Advertise 2 February 1923 10 July 1925 598 The playboy son of a rich manufacturer sets up a spurious rival to his father's company. To his father's astonishment the venture is successful. (By Roi Cooper Megrue and Walter Hackett.)
A Cuckoo in the Nest 22 July 1925 26 June 1926 376 A young man is forced by circumstances to share a room overnight with a married woman friend. Their spouses take some convincing that there has been no impropriety.
Rookery Nook 30 June 1926 25 June 1927 409 A newlywed man gives shelter to a damsel in distress in his wife's absence, and has to head off scandal stirred up by his interfering sister-in-law.
Thark 4 July 1927 16 June 1928 401 The new owner of a country house insists that it is haunted. The old owner's family set out to prove that it is not.
Plunder 26 June 1928 27 April 1929 344 Two friends rob a rapacious woman of her jewels. An accidental death in the course of the crime complicates matters.
A Cup of Kindness 24 May 1929 1 February 1930 291 The son and daughter of feuding suburban families marry. The families attempt, with sporadic success, to sink their differences.
A Night Like This 18 February 1930  15 November 1930 267 A policeman and a flâneur join forces to outwit a criminal gang and restore a stolen necklace to its owner.
Marry the Girl 24 November 1930 16 May 1931 195 The defendant in a breach of promise case returns happily to the arms of the plaintiff; his more recent love pairs off with the plaintiff's lawyer. (By George Arthurs and Arthur Miller)
Turkey Time 26 May 1931 16 January 1932 263 A member of a seaside concert party is stranded when the promoter of her show absconds. Two chivalrous men, impeded at every turn by rampaging landladies demanding money, rescue her.
Dirty Work 7 March 1932 27 August 1932 195 The manager of a jewellery shop stages a mock robbery to trap a gang of thieves.
Fifty-Fifty 5 September 1932 21 January 1933 161 A shy music teacher finds himself running a casino. (Adapted by H. F. Maltby from a French original by Louis Verneuil and Georges Berr)
A Bit of a Test 30 January 1933 3 June 1933 142 England's cricket captain strives to keep his star batsman out of trouble during an Ashes series in Australia.

Source: British Film Institute
  • Gaye, Freda (ed.) (1967). Who's Who in the Theatre (fourteenth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. OCLC 5997224. 
  • Richards, Jeffrey (2001). "Crisis at Christmas". In Mark Connelly (ed). Christmas at the Movies: Images of Christmas in American, British and European Cinema. London: Tauris. ISBN . 
  • Smith, Leslie (1989). "Ben Travers and the Aldwych Farces". Modern British Farce: A Selective Study of British Farce from Pinero to the Present Day. London: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN . 
  • Travers, Ben (1978). A-sitting on a Gate. London: W H Allen. ISBN . 
  • Trussler, Simon (2000). The Cambridge Illustrated History of British Theatre. Cambridge University Press. ISBN . 
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