The Man Who Stayed at Home (play)

The Man Who Stayed at Home is a play by J. E. Harold Terry and Lechmere Worrall. First performed in 1914, the play is set during the First World War and tells the story of a group of German spies in South East England and the British agent who thwarts their undercover operation. It ran for over a year and a half in London and became one of the longest running plays of the period. It was also performed in Australia and New Zealand, and in North America where it was known as The White Feather. There were two film versions of the play, the first in 1915 and the other in 1919.[1]

The Man Who Stayed at Home
Written by
CharactersChristopher Brent (title character)
Date premiered10 December 1914 (1914-12-10)
Place premieredRoyalty Theatre, London
SeriesThe Man Who Went Abroad (1917)
SubjectWWI espionage
GenreComedy Detective Thriller
SettingSouth-east England, 1914


This three act play is set in a boarding house called the 'Wave Crest Hotel' on the English coast. Christopher Brent is ‘The Man who...’, a character viewed by other characters as lazy and cowardly for his refusal to enlist as a soldier. However it soon becomes clear to the audience that he is actually a British secret agent attempting to uncover a group of German spies, based in the hotel, who are sending information to Germany using a wireless machine hidden in the fireplace. The Examiner of Plays, George Street, described it as 'a really good play about spies, with possible people and incidents and without any foolish violence of language. The plot, as is usual with good detective stories and plays, is full of incident'.[2]

United KingdomEdit

Directed by Eille Norwood, the play ran for 584 performances in London[3] between December 1914 and July 1916.[4] This was initially at the Royalty Theatre before transferring to the Apollo for the final four months of its run. The theme of German spies in England played on the fears of the British public at the time[3] leading to the Daily Mail describing it as: "more than a play of the moment; it is a play of the very second, pregnant with the insistence of a tremendous and nationally important question".[5] Although some reviewers considered it to be an ordinary detective play made popular by it topical setting,[6] other newspapers also gave the play more positive reviews[7] and many of the London cast became notable for their work in films. Dennis Eadie and Jean Cadell both reprised their roles in the 1915 film version of the play. The success of the play led to a book version of the play being produced in 1915[8] and a sequel The Man who went Abroad in 1917.[9]

Australia and New ZealandEdit

The Australian theatre company of J. C. Williamson Ltd (JCW) produced the play in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian premiere was at the Theatre Royal, Sydney on 1 May 1915 where its war theme gained particular relevance due to news of the Gallipoli landings which began less than a week earlier.[10] In June 1915 it was the first major war-themed drama to be performed in Melbourne, Australia, where it ran for five weeks at the Theatre Royal.[11] It then opened at the Wellington Opera House in New Zealand in August and was well received and attended by the Prime Minister William Massey.[12] The play, which starred Frank Harvey in the title role,[13] is considered to have been a major influence on the Australian film Within Our Gates (1915).[14] Both were produced by JCW and the film was directed by Harvey, who acted in the film along with several other actors who had been in the play.[15]

North AmericaEdit

On Broadway the play opened at the Comedy Theatre in February 1915, initially under the title The White Feather for 140 performances[16] which at one point were described as standing-room only[17] It returned to Broadway in April 1918 under the original British title for a run of 109 performances at the 48th Street Theatre.[16][18] The change in title was due to the fact that the writers had already sold the motion picture rights [17] and the alternative title is a reference to an incident in the play where Brent is handed a white feather to signify his supposed cowardice.[13]

The play toured Canada, being performed at the Princess Theatre, Montreal, in 1915 with a cast that included Grace Hampton and Wyndham Standing,[17] and in Toronto at the Royal Alexandra, where in March 1916, it returned for a third time in less than a year.[19][20]

Cast of the PlayEdit

Role London (Royalty)[21][22] London (Apollo)[21] Melbourne[13] Wellington[12]
Christopher Brent Dennis Eadie Stanley Logan Frank Harvey
Carl Sanderson Malcolm Cherry Frank Woolfe Cyril Mackay Austin Milroy
John Preston, J.P. Hubert Harben Sydney Paxton Arthur Cornell
Percival Pennicuik Stanley Logan P. Perceval Clark Martin Lewis Kenneth Brampton
Fritz E. Henry Edwards V Tarva Penna Leslie Victor
Corporal Atkins Campbell Gullan Robert Taylor - Charles Morse
Mrs Sanderson Mrs Robert Bough Emma Temple
Miriam Leigh Ruth Mackay Violet Paget
Molly Preston Isobel Elsom Stella Jesse Lizette Parkes Dorothy Cumming
Miss Myrtle Jaen Cadell Edith Evans Tempe Pigott
Fraulein Schroeder Mary Jerrold Esme Hubbard Elly Maylon Florence Gleeson
Daphne Kidlington Elizabeth Risdon Norah Balfour Dorothy Cumming Mattee Brown


  1. ^ Goble, Alan (1999). The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film (reprint ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 856. ISBN 9783110951943. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  2. ^ Street, George. "Examiner's Correspondence, British Library Add MS 66081 Q". Great War Theatre Project. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b Luckhurst, Mary, ed. (2008). A Companion to Modern British and Irish Drama: 1880 - 2005. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 302–3. ISBN 9780470751473. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  4. ^ Parker, John, ed. (1922). Who's Who in the Theatre, 4th edition. Boston: Small, Maynard and Company. p. 1071. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Amusements: The Man Who Stayed at Home". Sydney Morning Herald. 29 April 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  6. ^ Andrew Maunder (2015). British Theatre and the Great War 1914-1919. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 15. ISBN 9781137401991. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Amusements: The Man Who Stayed at Home". Sydney Morning Herald. 17 April 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  8. ^ "European Studies Blog: Is your governess really a spy?". British Library. 7 November 2014. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  9. ^ Williams, Gordon (2015). British Theatre in the Great War: A Revaluation. Bloomsbury. p. Notes (92). ISBN 9781474278096. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Drama up-to-date: The Man who stayed at Home: Thrill and Interest". The Sun. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 2 May 1915. p. 4. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  11. ^ Kumm, Elizabeth (2016). "Theatre in Melbourne, 1914–18: the best, the brightest and the latest" (PDF). La Trobe Journal. State Library Victoria. 97 (March 2016): 20. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  12. ^ a b "The Man Who Stayed at Home:Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2538". 12 August 1915. p. 7. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  13. ^ a b c "The Man Who Stayed at Home". Sydney Morning Herald. 3 May 1915. p. 4. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Our Boys in Action". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 31 July 1915. p. 14. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Within Our Gates". Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  16. ^ a b Lachman, Marvin (2014). The Villainous Stage: Crime Plays on Broadway and in the West End. McFarland. p. 114. ISBN 9780786495344. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  17. ^ a b c "The White Feather". Montreal Daily Mail. 3 April 1915. p. 8. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  18. ^ Wearing, J. P. (2013). "14.339". The London Stage 1910-1919: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel (2, revised ed.). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810893009. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  19. ^ "The White Feather". The Toronto World. 15 April 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  20. ^ "'The White Feather' as popular as ever". The Toronto World. 21 March 1916. p. 3. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  21. ^ a b J. E. Harold Terry; Lechmere Worrall (1916). "The Man Who Stayed at Home". Samuel French. p. 7. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  22. ^ Low, Rachael (2013). The History of British Film (Volume 3): The History of the British Film 1914 - 1918, Volume 3. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 9781136206061. Retrieved 6 June 2018.

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