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About the authors

Grace Brockington

Grace Brockington is Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Bristol. As a specialist in modern British art, she has written about art in relation to war and pacifism, internationalism, the Bloomsbury group, puppetry, and universal language. Together with Sarah Victoria Turner, she convened the AHRC-funded research network “Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920” (2009–2014). She was guest curator of the exhibition Gaudier-Brzeska: Disputing the Earth (Royal West of England Academy, 2019). 

Claudia Tobin

Claudia Tobin is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in English at the University of Cambridge and a Research Associate at Jesus College. Her research and publications broadly focus on literature and visual cultures of the first half of the twentieth century. Claudia’s curatorial experience includes working as Research Assistant on the exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life, and Vision at the National Portrait Gallery (2014), and more recently contributing to Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by her Writings, which toured from Tate St Ives in 2018. Her first book, Still Life and Modernism, will be published in early 2020.

Imprint
Date
25 March 2019
Review status
Peer Reviewed (Double Blind)
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Cite as
Grace Brockington, Claudia Tobin, "London's Little Theatres", British Art Studies, Issue 11, https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-11/theatres
Footnotes
Arthur Ransome, Bohemia in London (Chapman and Hall, 1907), 11.
Ransome, Bohemia in London, 33.
The quotation is taken from Marthe Troly-Curtin, “Bouquet en Casserole”, The Sketch, 11 April 1917, 26.
Margaret Morris, My Life in Movement, 25.
Ida Buergel Goodwin, Idun, 12 July 1914, 442–443, quoted in Emerson, Rhythm & Colour, 33.
Hélène Vanel, Biondographic—de L’ Estérel en Italie, January 1925, 12, quoted in Emerson, Rhythm & Colour, 119.
Susan Jones, Literature, Modernism, Dance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 201.
Richard Emerson, Rhythm & Colour: Hélène Vanel, Loïs Hutton & Margaret Morris (Edinburgh: Golden Hare, 2018), 61.
“Social History: Social and Cultural Activites”, in Patricia E.C. Croot (ed.), A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12, Chelsea (London: Victoria County History, 2004), 166–176. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol12/pp166-176, accessed 26 November 2018.
“Social History: Social and Cultural Activities”, in Patricia E.C. Croot (ed.), A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12, Chelsea (London: Victoria County History, 2004), 166–176. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol12/pp166-176, accessed 26 November 2018.
Margaret Morris, My Life in Movement (London: Peter Owen, 1969), 49–50.
The Suffragette, 27 February 1914. Quoted in June Purvis, “Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biographical Interpretation”, Women’s History Review 12, no. 1 (2003), 92.
“Catalogue of All Known Architectural Projects by Charles Rennie Mackintosh”, “M343 Design for a Theatre for Margaret Morris”, https://www.mackintosh-architecture.gla.ac.uk/catalogue/freetext/display/?rs=4&q=%20Morris%20Theatre.
Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, 1st edn (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952), 158. Quoted by Sheila Harris, “Charles Rennie Mackintosh at Glebe Place, Chelsea, London”, 78 Derngate Archive, https://archive.78derngate.org.uk/index.php/2017/03/05/charles-rennie-mackintosh-at-glebe-place-chelsea-london/.
Maxwell Armfield’s unpublished memoir, “My World and I—the Cotswolds and London in War”, 45; Tate Gallery Archives, Tate Archive: TGA 976/3/2/10.
Ezra Pound, The New Age, 8 January 1920, 159–160. Signed “B.H. Dias”.
Pound, The New Age, 159–160.
Marthe Troly-Curtin, “Phrynette’s Letters to Lonely Soldiers: Bouquet en Casserole”, The Sketch, 11 April 1917, 26.
Henry James, “Refugees in Chelsea”, Times Literary Supplement, 23 March 1916, 740: 133–134.
Her name and address on Royal Avenue are listed in the Directory for The International Peace Year-Book 1917, edited by Carl Heath (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1917), 177.
Margaret Morris, The Art of J.D. Fergusson: A Biased Biography (Glasgow: Blackie, 1974), 127.
Katherine Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, edited by John Middleton Murry (London: Constable & Co., 1927), 79.
Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 79.”
Katherine Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, edited by John Middleton Murry (London: Constable & Co., 1927), 79–80.
Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 79–80.
Quoted in Jeffey Meyers Katherine Mansfield: A Darker View (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002), 149–151.
Marthe Troly-Curtin, ‘Phrynette’s Letters to Lonely Soldiers: Bouquet en Casserole’, The Sketch, 11 April 1917, 26.
Historical note for Royal Court Theatre: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1226628. Samantha Ellis, “Votes for Women!, Royal Court, April 1907”, The Guardian, 19 March 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2003/mar/19/theatre.artsfeatures1, accessed 11 January 2019.
Dora Meeson Coates, Georges Coates: His Art and His Life (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1937), 89.
Address listed in The International Peace Year-Book of 1916 and 1917.
Advertisement, Frank Rutter (ed.), Art and Letters 1, no. 3 (January 1918).
“Luxuries for Women: The New Lyceum Club”, London Daily News, 20 June 1904, 9.
J.M. Woddis, “The Cafe Royal in War Time”, Colour. 2, no. 6 (July 1915): 218–220.
Eleanor Elder, Travelling Players (London: Frederick Muller, 1939), 11–12.
Carol Seagrove, ‘A History of the British Theatre Association and Library’, MA Dissertation, Loughborough University of Technology, 1994.
Quoted in Helen Caldwell, Michio Ito: The Dancer and His Dances (London: University of California Press, 1977), 40.
Caldwell, Michio Ito, 41–42.
Constance Malleson, After Ten Years (London: Jonathan Cape, 1931), 89 and 117.
Richard Emerson establishes the chronology of Morris’ use of the premises on the King’s Road in his book Rhythm & Colour: Hélène Vanel, Loïs Hutton & Margaret Morris (Edinburgh: Golden Hare, 2018), 26–27 and 31–33. Morris rented the space as a dance school from December 1913, with the theatre opening six months later, and the club opening in 1915.
Margaret Morris, My Life in Movement (London: Peter Owen, 1969), 32–35.
Caradec and Weill, Le Café-Concert (1848–1914), 20–21.
François Caradec and Alain Weill, Le Café-Concert (1848–1914) (Paris: Fayard, 2007).
Emerson, Rhythm & Colour, 563.
Constance Smedley, Crusaders: The Reminiscences of Constance Smedley (Mrs Maxwell Armfield) (London: Duckworth, 1929), 220.
Morris, My Life in Movement, 33.
Grace Brockington, “Puppetry and Ambivalence in the Art of Paul Nash”, in Kamil Kopania (ed.), Dolls and Puppets: Contemporaneity and Tradition (The Aleksander Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw, 2018).
John France, review of Goossens: Orchestral Works (Chandos, 2013), in Music Web International, www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Apr13/Goossens_orchestral_CHSA5119.htm, accessed 21 January 2019.
See their memoirs: Constance Smedley, Crusaders: The Reminiscences of Constance Smedley (Mrs Maxwell Armfield) (London: Duckworth, 1929), 194–225. Maxwell Armfield, “My World and I—the Cotswolds and London in War” (unpublished, 1970), 26–36 and 40–53, Tate Archive: TGA 976/3/2/10.
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, and Paul Readman, “Mid-Gloucestershire Pageant”, The Redress of the Past, www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1130/. While the literature on the pageant credits Maxwell Armfield as artist, Constance Smedley is not mentioned at all, although her memoirs indicate that she played a prominent part. Smedley, Crusaders, 201–208.
Armfield, “My World and I”, 28.
Smedley, Crusaders, 217.
Maxwell Armfield, “Illustrators Notes” to Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale (London: J.M. Dent, 1922), 94. He reflects also on her practice in “My World and I”, 31.
Constance Smedley, “The Greenleaf Theatre”, English Review 35 (July 1922), 58. In her memoirs, she states that Armfield wrote the play before they left the Cotswolds for London; see Smedley, Crusaders, 217.
Smedley, Crusaders, 218–220. The casting for the play was different at each of the venues, with the Holt sisters performing at the Greenleaf Studio, and Eleanor Elder and Kathleen Dillon taking over their roles at the Margaret Morris Theatre.
Smedley, Crusaders, 218–219.
Maxwell Armfield, “Note on the Drawings”, in William Morris, The Life and Death of Jason (London: Headley Brothers, 1915), vi.
Armfield, “Note on the Drawings”, v.
Armfield, “My World and I”, 44–45.
Armfield mounted a defence of German design in his article “The Value of Art in the Community”, Colour 2, no. 3 (April 2015): 86—a provocation given the current conflict with Germany.
Edward McKnight Kauffer, letter to Maxwell Armfield, ([n.d.], but internal evidence suggests 1917 as the letter mentions Armfield’s article “Domesticated Mural Painting”, The Countryside Magazine and Suburban Life [February 1917]), Tate Archive: TGA 976.
Kauffer also contributed to Original Woodcuts by Various Artists (London: The Omega Workshops, 1918). For his work with the Arts League of Service, see Mark Haworth-Booth, E. McKnight Kauffer: A Designer and his Public (London: Gordon Fraser, 1979), 28–29 and 41.
Smedley, Crusaders, 188.
Smedley, Crusaders, 200.
Charlotte Purkis, “Fin-de-Siècle Fantasy as Performative Memoir in Gertrude Hudson and Constance Smedley’s Writings on Music”, unpublished conference paper presented at International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music (Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, 29 June–2 July 2000). I thank Dr Purkis for sharing her paper with me.
Smedley, Crusaders, 220 and 250.
Smedley, Crusaders, 222.
Smedley, Crusaders, 220.
Maxwell Armfield, The Minstrel (London: Duckworth, 1922), 20.
Peterson published as Pai Ta-Shun in Harper’s Weekly from March 1914. The poems were collected as Pa Tai-Shun, Chinese Lyrics (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh Ltd, 1916). The story is related in “Mystery of Authorship of Chinese Lyrics Solved”, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, 4 March 1917, 4, sourced here from the Sunday Magazine website: http://sundaymagazine.org/.
The Choric School first came to public notice in May 1913 when it gave four performances at the New Rehearsal Theatre in Bedford Street, London. The programme for this event is exhibited here. The performances were listed in The Times, 12 July 1913, and The Athenaeum, 17 May 1913, 552. In June of that year, they danced at the opening of the Margaret Morris Theatre. Wartime reviews in The Sketch place the Club at 71 Royal Hospital Road (22 March 1916, 248; 11 April 1917, 26) and at the Margaret Morris Theatre (1 November 1916, 90; 30 January 1918, 92). These references are given in Richard Emerson, Rhythm & Colour: Hélène Vanel, Loïs Hutton & Margaret Morris (Edinburgh: Golden Hare, 2018), 33 and 494, nn 32 and 34. In the Ellen Terry and Edith Craig archive, there is a programme for a Choric School performance at the Margaret Morris Theatre on 19 March 1916 (EC-D46).
Rodker is now the most famous of the group. His contribution to British and European modernism has attracted increasing attention since the publication of Andrew Crozier (ed.), Poems & Adolphe 1920 (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1996). Hester Sainsbury’s career is described by Peter Tucker in “Hester Sainsbury: A Book Illustrator of the 1920s”, The Private Library 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1990): 112–136; and “Hester Sainsbury: Some Further Notes”, The Private Library 5, no. 2 (Summer 1992): 80–89. There is scant scholarship on Kathleen Dillon and even less on Evelyn Sainsbury, but note the article by Dillon's daughter, Elizabeth Panegourias, ”Kathleen Dillon Morrison”, Margaret Morris Movement Magazine, no. 22 (Autumn 1990), 41–44.
John Rodker, “The Choric School”, The Drama, August 1916, 439.
Hester Sainsbury, quoted in Rodker, “The Choric School”.
Constance Smedley, Crusaders: The Reminiscences of Constance Smedley (Mrs Maxwell Armfield) (London: Duckworth, 1929), 217–218.
Emerson, Rhythm & Colour, 35 and 494, n. 32.
Marthe Troly-Curtin, “Phrynette’s Letters to Lonely Soldiers: Bouquet en Casserole”, The Sketch, 11 April 1917, 26; quoted in Emerson, Rhythm & Colour, 35–36.
The Japanese connection is outlined in Yoko Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig: A Japanese Playwright in London and Toronto”, Comparative Drama 30, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 431–451. The list of names given here is drawn from that article.
Sylvie Buisson, T.L. Fouita: inédits (Paris: À l’encre rouge Arhices artistiques; Fondation Nichido, ca. 2007), 62 and 66.
Helen of Sparta by Emil Verhaeren, listed in the Plough Club programme for 1919, E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection, Pasadena, CA.
Emerson, Rhythm & Colour, 494, n. 33.
Tucker, “Hester Sainsbury: A Book-Illustrator of the 1920s”; and Tucker, “Hester Sainsbury: Some Further Notes”.
See Jenny Powell (ed.), New Rhythms: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: Art, Dance and Movement in London 1911–1915 (Cambridge: Kettles Yard, 2015), 125.
See the Tate catalogue entry for David Bomberg, sketches for The Dancer, ca. 1913–1914, published in The Tate Gallery 1974–6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions (London, 1978) and online at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bomberg-sketches-for-the-dancer-t01961, accessed 19 December 2018.
Sophie Cohen (later Sonia Joslen), interviewed by Richard Cork, quoted in Cork, Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, Vol. 2 Synthesis and Decline (London: Gordon Fraser, 1976), 392.
Ezra Pound, “Foreword to the Choric School”, in Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, October 1915, n.p.
Sainsbury, quoted in Rodker, “The Choric School”, 439.
Pound, “Foreword to the Choric School”.
Smedley, Crusaders, 220.
Smedley, Crusaders, 220.
Maxwell Armfield, “My World and I—the Cotswolds and London in War” (unpublished, 1970), 47–48, Tate Archive: TGA 976/3/2/10. Smedley corroborates his account in Crusaders, 217–220.
Constance Smedley, Justice Walk (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1925 [1915]), 168. One of the young women is called Edith. In her memoirs, Smedley remembered that the Clarissa Club was led by Hester and “Edith” Sainsbury—surely a slip for Evelyn.
Smedley, Justice Walk, 156 and 163.
Plough Club prospectus, 1919, E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection, Pasadena, CA. Unless otherwise stated, information about the Club’s aims, organisation, membership, and programme is taken from this document.
Verhaeren’s play Philip the Second was staged on 29 September 1918 in translation by F.S. Flint, with designs by Glyn Philpot, music by Eugene Goossens and production by George de Warfaz. His Helen of Sparta was staged in 1919 with designs by Jacob Epstein. For the inclusion of Khori, Maeterlinck, and Malleson in the programme, see Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), 206. Malleson’s prohibited plays were “D” Company and Black ‘Ell (both 1916).
Margaret Morris names Mackintosh as a member of her club in My Life in Movement (London: Peter Owen, 1969), 34–35, where she also writes about her collaboration with Goossens; see 33 and 41–42. Epstein’s association with the Choric School is mentioned by Yoko Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig: A Japanese Playwright in London and Toronto”, Comparative Drama 30, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 434. Letters from Drinkwater to Armfield survive amongst the Armfield papers at Tate Britain. For the cast of the Sneezing Charm, see Katharine Cockin, Edith Craig: Dramatic Lives (London: Cassell, 1997), 129.
Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, 206.
Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, 206–215.
E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection: “Biography”, www.eohoppe.com/about, accessed 11 December 2018. Recent exhibitions of his work include Hoppé Portraits: Society, Studio & Street (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2011), and Rediscovered Fotos: Emil Otto Hoppé (Helmond: The Gemeentemuseum, 2016).
Plough Club prospectus, 1919, E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection, Pasadena, CA.
Herbert Farjeon, “The Sneezing Charm”, Era, 12 June 1918.
Farjeon, “The Sneezing Charm”.
Further, he then converted the ballet into an opera, which was first performed in 1923. “Music and History: Gustav Holst”, www.musicandhistory.com/composers/8028, consulted 19 January 2019.
Maxwell Armfield, “Art and Patriotism”, Colour 4, no. 2 (March 1916), 55. The editorial immediately following argued that it was unpatriotic to employ German colour printers.
“‘Little Interviews’: Miss Edith Craig at the Pioneer Players”, The Pall Mall Gazette, 13 April 1912, 12. The historian Katharine Cockin makes the point that the Pioneer Players promoted a range of causes in addition to women’s suffrage, in Edith Craig (1869–1947): Dramatic Lives (London: Cassell, 1997), 108, 109, 111, 113, and 115.
Pioneer Players Annual Report 1911–12, 7–8, quoted in Katharine Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage: The Pioneer Players, 1911–1925 (London: Palgrave, 2001), 42. The review in The Times complained that “We had walked in so innocently, imagining that the pioneering of the Pioneer Players was to be dramatic, not (if we may be pardoned the ugly word) feministic”; see The Times, 9 May 1911, 13.
Various explanations for this change of direction are summarised by Cockin in Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 167–169. The Appendix to this book lists all the Pioneer Players’ productions by season. Those which addressed the subject of war were: Gwen John, Luck of War (May 1917); Sewell Collins, The Quitters (May 1917); and George Bernard Shaw, The Inca of Perusalem (December 1917). Most of the foreign-language plays were translated from French and Russian. Paul Claudel, Nikolai Evreinov, and Anton Chekhov featured several times, as did the Dutch playwright Herman Heijermans.
The plays were: Sisyphus and the Wandering Jew by the Belgian playwright Isi Collin; Two Pierrot by the Frenchman Edmond Rostand; and The Theatre of the Soul by the Russian Nikolai Evreinov. The quotation is taken from the programme for The Theatre of the Soul (3 December 1915, Shaftsbury Theatre). Cockin argues that the principle of eclecticism was first stated here, signalling the company’s change of direction: they wished to avoid “limiting their field of action to any particular school” and “refrained from proclaiming that revolutionary aesthetic formulae, as such, have any value”; see Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 166.
“Theatres and Music. Varied Emotions. Four Curious Plays at the Little Theatre. Real Pioneering”, London Standard, 9 March 1915, 9; The Girl and the Puppet from Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947), 127; The Theatre of the Soul from Christopher St John, “Introduction” to the edition of the play published by Henderson's Bookshop in 1915.
Pioneer Players’ Annual Report, 1914–1915, 8–9. For Cockin’s analysis see “Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players: London’s International Art Theatre in a ‘Khaki-clad and Khaki-Minded World”, in Andrew Maunder (ed.), British Theatre and the Great War, 1914–1919: New Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 12 and 137.
As Cockin points out, attitudes to the war amongst members of the Pioneer Players varied enormously, from active pacifism to active support; see Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 137–142; Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947), 117; and Cockin, “Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players”, 122. She discusses the Pioneer Players’ commitment to freedom of opinion in Edith Craig (1869–1947), 111.
Elder and Morris feature on programme cast lists. Cockin notes the AGM in Edith Craig (1869–1947), 206, n. 61.
The Pioneer Players feature on the membership list that is printed in the Plough Club prospectus, 1919, E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection, Pasadena, CA. Cockin notes the connection with The Sneezing Charm in Edith Craig (1869–1947), 129.
The Japanese connection is outlined in Yoko Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig: A Japanese Playwright in London and Toronto”, Comparative Drama 30, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 431–451.
For example, Nikolai Evreinov, The Theatre of the Soul (London: Henderson's Bookshop, 1915).
Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947), 130–131; Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 163–165; Cockin, “Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players”, 137.
The programme is preserved in the Ellen Terry and Edith Craig archive: “Russia’s Day Programme, 18 November 1915”, D122.
Cockin explores the significance of the play in “The Pioneer Players: Plays of/with Identity”, in G. Griffin (ed.), Difference in View: Women and Modernism (London: Taylor & Francis, 1994).
See Christopher St John’s indignant account in her introduction to the published edition of the play.
The event was played up as a scandal in the press. For example, “Play Cancelled at Royal Matinée: No Explanation”, Daily Telegraph, 19 November 1915, 9. Cockin describes the fall-out in Edith Craig (1869–1947), 119–120.
Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947), 11–13.
She worked closely with the Lyceum Theatre Group (led by Ellen Terry, Bram Stoker, and Henry Irving) and illustrated the work of Terry, Stoker, and W.B. Yeats. When Yeats and Edith Craig proposed to set up a new symbolist theatre called the Maskers in about 1903, Smith was also involved.
Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 177–178.
Plank also designed Mrs Christopher Lowther’s costume in Death and the Lady (13 May 1917, Kingsway Theatre) and served on the Council in 1919–1920; see Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 178. In January 1919, he played St Crispin in An Early English Nativity Play; see Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947), 128. His correspondence with Craig, her family, and friends is kept with the Plank papers at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, and his correspondence with the Ellen Terry and Edith Craig papers is kept at the British Library.
“Debenham—Not Free Body: A Skirt-Bound Columbine”, The Sketch, 5 April 1916, 7.
Champcommunal is listed as a member of the committee of the Margaret Morris Club in the Club prospectus for 1918. Hoppé’s portrait of Lady Eileen Wellesley appeared as the frontispiece to the first London issue.
Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage, 145–148.
“Postcard handbill, 13 May [1917]”, Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database, reference EC-Z3,514c, www.ellenterryarchive.hull.ac.uk. Craig studied at the Royal Academy of Music and took piano lessons with Alexis Hollander in Berlin. Other musicians she worked with included Lady Maud Warrender and Christopher Wilson. See Cockin, Edith Craig (1869–1947), 123.
Their relationship is detailed in Katharine Cockin, Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2017), 104–111.
Productions are referenced in the Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database.
Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database, EC-D196.
The literature on Yeats and Noh is extensive. See, for example, Sylvia C. Ellis, The Plays of W.B. Yeats: Yeats and the Dancer (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1995).
Ian Patterson, “Writing on Other Fronts: Translation and John Rodker”, Translation and Literature 12, no. 1 (Spring 2003), 94. The performance, which took place in January 1916, was praised by the theatre critic Huntly Carter in his article “Spontaneitics”, The Egoist 3, no. 2 (1 February 1916), 29.
Yoko Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig: A Japanese Playwright in London and Toronto”, Comparative Drama 30, no. 4 (Winter 1996–1997), 434.
Foujita moved to London on 8 January 1916 and lived with Kumé until 26 April, when he moved to 71 Royal Hospital Road. In the summer months, he spent some time in the country, returning to Royal Hospital Road in September, and back to France in January 1917. Sylvie Buisson, T.L. Foujita: inédits (Paris: À l’encre rouge Archives artistiques; Fondation Nichido, ca. 2007), 62 and 66.
Buisson, T.L. Foujita, 54–56.
My grateful thanks to Sylvie Buisson for this insight. Email to the author, 7 January 2019.
Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig”, 434.
Plough Club prospectus, 1919, E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection, Pasadena, CA.
The performance took place at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly, on 16 December 1917, as part of a triple bill with W.F. Casey’s Insurrection and George Bernard Shaw’s The Inca of Perusalem; Katharine Cockin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage: The Pioneer Players, 1911–1925 (London: Palgrave, 2001), 202.
Keiko Itoh, The Japanese Community in Pre-War Britain: From Integration to Disintegration (Richmond: Curzon Press, 2001), 110–120.
Arthur Ransome, Bohemia in London (London: Chapman & Hall, 1907), 51–55.
Itoh, The Japanese Community in Pre-War Britain, 1–5. In 1915, a Japanese-language community monthly newspaper was launched, the Nichiei Shinshi, which provided a record of Japanese cultural activity until the paper folded in 1938.
Itoh, The Japanese Community in Pre-War Britain, 116.
Itoh, The Japanese Community in Pre-War Britain, 3–5, 11, 110, and 113–114.
Helena Čapková, “The Hawk Princess at the Hawk’s Well: Neo-Noh and the Idea of a Universal Japan”, in Charlotte Ashby et al. (eds), Imagined Cosmopolis: Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2019).
Helen Caldwell, Michio Ito: The Dancer and His Dances (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977), 37–41.
Masaru Sekine and Christopher Murray, Yeats and the Noh: A Comparative Study (Gerrards Cross: Smythe, 1990), 86.
Alvin Langdon Coburn, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Photographer: An Autobiography, first published 1966 (New York: Dover Publications, 1978), 70.
Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, “Strategic Unweaving, Ito Michio and the Diasporic Dancing Body”, in Erika Fischer-Lichte, Torsten Jost, and Saskya Iris Jain (eds), The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures: Beyond Postcolonialism (New York: Routledge, 2014), 212.
Caldwell, Michio Ito, 37–54.
W.B. Yeats, edited by Andrew Parkin, At the Hawk’s Well and The Cat and the Moon: Manuscript Materials (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010), xxxv–vi.
W.B. Yeats, Four Plays for Dancers (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1921), vi–vii.
Yeats, Four Plays for Dancers, 90.
Yeats, At the Hawk’s Well and The Cat and the Moon, 185.
For a history and analysis of the play, see Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig”, 438–441.
Torahiko Khori, Kanawa: The Incantation: A Play for Marionettes (London: Gowans & Gray; Boston, MA: LeRoy Phillips, 1918), 9–10.
Torahiko Khori, letter to Edith Craig, 19 December 1917. The Ellen Terry and Edith Craig archive: EC-Z3,405a.
Sato Takezou, “Portrait of Gonneske Komai”, Colour 8–9 (August 1918), 24.
Chiba, “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig”, 434.
“The Woman About Town”, The Sketch, 13 March 1918, 28.
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Brockington, G. (2008) “Puppetry and Ambivalence in the Art of Paul Nash”. In Kamil Kopania (ed.), Dolls and Puppets: Contemporaneity and Tradition. The Aleksander Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw.

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Carter, H. (1916) “Spontaneitics”. The Egoist 3, no. 2 (1 February).

Chiba, Y. (1996) “Kori Torahiko and Edith Craig: A Japanese Playwright in London and Toronto”. Comparative Drama 30, no. 4 (Winter): 431–451.

Cockin, K. (1994) “The Pioneer Players: Plays of/ with Identity”. In G. Griffin (ed.), Difference in View: Women and Modernism. London: Taylor & Francis.

Cockin, K. (1997) Edith Craig (1869–1947): Dramatic Lives. London: Cassell.

Cockin, K. (2001) Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage: The Pioneer Players, 1911–1925. London: Palgrave.

Cockin, K. (2015) “Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players: London’s International Art Theatre in a ‘Khaki-clad and Khaki-Minded World”. In Andrew Maunder (ed.), British Theatre and the Great War, 1914–1919: New Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cockin, K. (2017) Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.

Cork, R. (1976) Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, Vol. 2 “Synthesis and Decline”. London: Gordon Fraser.

Crozier, A. (ed.) (1996) Poems & Adolphe 1920. Manchester: Carcanet Press.

Ellis, S.C. (1995) The Plays of W.B. Yeats: Yeats and the Dancer. New York: St Martin’s Press.

Emerson, R. (2018) Rhythm & Colour: Hélène Vanel, Loïs Hutton & Margaret Morris. Edinburgh: Golden Hare.

Evreinov, N. (1915) The Theatre of the Soul. London: Henderson’s Bookshop.

Farjeon, H. (1918) “The Sneezing Charm”. Era, 12 June.

France, J. (2013) review of Goossens: Orchestral Works (Chandos, 2013), in Music Web International, www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Apr13/Goossens_orchestral_CHSA5119.htm, accessed 21 January 2019.

Haworth-Booth, M. (1979) E. McKnight Kauffer: A Designer and his Public. London: Gordon Fraser.

Howarth, T. (1977) Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Kreymborg, A. (ed.) (1915) “The Choric School Number”. Others: A Magazine of the New Verse 1, no. 4.

McKnight Kauffer, E. letter to Maxwell Armfield, (n.d.) Tate Archive: TGA 976.

Morris, M. (1969) My Life in Movement. London: Peter Owen. 

Pa Tai-Shun (1916) Chinese Lyrics. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh Ltd.

Patterson, I. (2003) “Writing on Other Fronts: Translation and John Rodker”. Translation and Literature 12, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 88–1113.

Pound, E. (1915) “Foreword to the Choric School”. Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, October.

Powell, J. (ed.) (2015) New Rhythms: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: Art, Dance and Movement in London 1911–1915. Cambridge: Kettles Yard.

Purkis, C. (2000) “Fin-de-Siècle Fantasy as Performative Memoir in Gertrude Hudson and Constance Smedley’s Writings on Music”, unpublished conference paper presented at International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music. Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, 29 June–2 July.

Ransome, A. (1907) Bohemia in London. Chapman and Hall.

Rodker, J. (1916) “The Choric School”. The Drama, August.

Rodker, J. (1932) Memoirs of Other Fronts. London.

Smedley, C. (1922) “The Greenleaf Theatre”. English Review 35 (July).

Smedley, C. (1925 [1915]) Justice Walk. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Smedley, C. (1929) Crusaders: The Reminiscences of Constance Smedley (Mrs Maxwell Armfield). London: Duckworth.

Troly-Curtin, M. (1917) “Phrynette’s Letters to Lonely Soldiers: Bouquet en Casserole”. The Sketch, 11 April.

Tucker, P. (1990) “Hester Sainsbury: A Book Illustrator of the 1920s”. The Private Library 3, no. 3 (Autumn): 112–136.

Tucker, P. (1992) “Hester Sainsbury: Some Further Notes”. The Private Library 5, no. 2 (Summer): 80–89.

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DOI

“Chelsea, dotted with groups of studios, full of small streets, and cheap lodgings, is alive with artists and writers, and rich with memories of both.”1 Thus wrote a young Arthur Ransome in his whimsical study Bohemia in London (1907). By 1914, Chelsea was well established as a cultural quarter. Over the decades, it had been home to artists and writers from Turner to Sargent, from Swift to Michael Field. Rossetti and Swinburne had shared a house on Cheyne Walk, where they kept a personal zoo. Whistler lived a few doors from Wilde on Tite Street and painted Wilde’s ceiling with a design of peacock feathers. By the time Ransome arrived in the neighbourhood, in 1901, it had “begun to deserve its reputation as a battlefield and bivouacking ground for art and literature.”2 At the outbreak of the First World War, an influx of artists and writers from the provinces and from abroad gave the area a new lease of life, just at the point when the London art world was entering a phase of cultural reaction and the avant-gardes were breaking up in reaction to the conflict.

The artists, writers, and performers who gathered around the Margaret Morris Theatre on the King’s Road formed a close community. Morris lived at 1 Glebe Place, her partner, the artist J.D. Fergusson, at 14 Redcliffe Road. The Choric School operated from a “quaintly decorated house” on Royal Hospital Road, where Khori Torahiko and Fujita Tsuguji lived at different points during the war.3 The Armfields set up their Greenleaf Theatre in a studio on Glebe Place, a few doors away from Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Mackintosh. The Ballets Russes dancer Serafina Astafieva opened a dance school at 152 King’s Road. Vernon Lee and Geoffrey Whitworth lived on Oakley Street; George Plank lived on Cheyne Row. The Blue Cockatoo restaurant on Cheyne Walk, overlooking the river, was a favourite haunt, and close to Jacob Epstein’s lodgings and Edward McKnight Kauffer’s studio. E.O. Hoppé was a short walk away on Cromwell Place in South Kensington. Slightly further afield, there were significant locations near Covent Garden—Henderson’s Bookshop on Charing Cross Road, the Union of Democratic Control on Norfolk Street, the Pioneer Players on Bedford Street and, after the war, the Arts League of Service on Robert Street.

It was an actual community rather than an imagined one, formed by personal collaborations, social gatherings, and chance encounters in and around Chelsea and the Strand. Such familiarity shaped the nature of their work together and generated a sense of solidarity in the otherwise inhospitable cultural climate of the First World War. The map presented here, curated by Claudia Tobin, is intended to conjure up the genius loci that Vernon Lee evoked in her travel writing. It was made in 1913 by C. Smith & Son and is marked with key locations—homes, studios, libraries, theatres, and other places of work and entertainment. Many of these sites are linked to recent or historical photographs, prints, or paintings to create a virtual tour of a neighbourhood which, even after a century of rebuilding, may still seem half-familiar.

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DOI
Index
  1. The Margaret Morris Theatre and Club, 131–141 King’s Road
  2. Serafina Astafieva, The Pheasantry, 152 King’s Road
  3. Chenil Gallery (later the New Chenil Galleries), 181–183 King’s Road
  4. Chelsea Palace Theatre, 232–242 King’s Road (demolished 1960s)
  5. Local Cinemas, King’s Road
  6. Margaret Morris, 1 Glebe Place
  7. Maxwell Armfield and Constance Smedley Armfield, 39 Glebe Place
  8. C.R. Mackintosh and Margaret Mackintosh, 43a and 49 Glebe Place
  9. Proposed site of the new Margaret Morris Theatre, between Glebe Place, Oakley Street, and Upper Cheyne Row
  10. The Blue Cockatoo, 35 Cheyne Walk
  11. Jacob Epstein, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Henry James, Cheyne Walk
  12. Crosby Hall and More’s Garden, Cheyne Walk
  13. George Plank, 18 Cheyne Row
  14. Vernon Lee, 23 Oakley Street
  15. Edward McKnight Kauffer, Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street
  16. Augustus John, 28 Mallord Street
  17. The Margaret Morris School of Dance, 37 Cranley Gardens
  18. Henry Tonks, 88 Edith Grove
  19. J.D. Fergusson, 14 Redcliffe Road
  20. John Middelton Murry, 47 Redcliffe Road
  21. Frank Dobson, 14 Harley Gardens
  22. Katherine Mansfield, 141a Old Church Street
  23. Chelsea Arts Club, 143 Old Church Street
  24. Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road
  25. The Choric School, 71 Royal Hospital Road
  26. Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square
  27. Chelsea Barracks, Chelsea Bridge Road
  28. Manresa Road Studios and Physical Training College
  29. Clifford Allen, 170 Overstrand Mansions
  30. Percy Wyndham Lewis, 5 Cromwell Place
  31. E.O. Hoppé, 7 Cromwell Place
  32. Ruby Ginner School of Dance and Mime, Royal Albert Hall
  33. The Lyceum Club, 128 Piccadilly
  34. The Café Royal, Regent Street
  35. Theatre Royal, Haymarket
  36. The Arts League of Service, 1 Robert Street, Adelphi
  37. Union of Democratic Control, 37 Norfolk Street, Strand
  38. The Bomb Shop (Henderson’s Bookshop), 66 Charing Cross Road
  39. Edith Craig, 31 Bedford Street
  40. Hester Sainsbury, 52 Wimpole Street
  41. The British Drama League, 9–10 Fitzroy Square
  42. Lady Ottoline Morrell, 44 Bedford Square
  43. The Attic, Home of Miles and Constance Malleson
  44. W.B. Yeats, 5 Woburn Walk
< Index
The Margaret Morris Theatre and Club, 131–141 King’s Road

Having set up a dance school in the early 1910s supported by the novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, in early 1912, Morris moved the school to the upper floor of the newly built Temperance Billiard Hall on the King’s Road. It consisted of “a first-floor room 100 feet long, with direct access to Flood Street.”4 In 1914, it was established as a Little Theatre and Club, and dance motifs were painted on the doors and panels. The Swedish women’s magazine, Idun, described the lively interest and atmosphere surrounding the Theatre’s first season of performances:

“It is not difficult to find the theatre in the long dark quiet Chelsea street. Sometimes you pass a hoarding or a street corner, where your eye is drawn to her [Morris’] strikingly executed posters in black and dark blue […] The vestibule is brightly lit; cars hoots and people run about while others wait. On entering the theatre you find a large police constable … holding people back and telling them that, ‘If it is sold out, it is sold out!’”5

The Margaret Morris Movement dancer Hélène Vanel’s first impressions of the theatre painted a more ambivalent picture:

“Everything was dirty, grey and smoky: the theatre was cramped, dark and a bit sinister, with its green curtained stage, long mirror and small-paned coloured glass windows. Yet the moment one entered this strange little theatre perched above the shops in the King’s Road, one came to life.”6

Image: The Margaret Morris Theatre and Club, 131-141 King’s Road, reproduced in Richard Emerson, Rhythm & Colour (Edinburgh: Golden Hare, 2018), 26.

< Index
Serafina Astafieva, The Pheasantry, 152 King’s Road

The Russian ballet dancer Princess Serafina Astafieva (1876–1934) lived and taught here from 1916 to 1934. She joined Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1909, and performed in France and England, before setting up her Russian Dancing Academy in 1914. She moved to her studio at the “Pheasantry” in 1916. There she hosted a bohemian arts salon as well as a dance school, which was visited by Ezra Pound (who then lived in Chelsea at 10 Kensington Church Walk) and Diaghilev. In 1919, Massine rehearsed two of his ballets in the studio, La Boutique Fantasque and Three Corner’d Hat.7 Penelope Spencer, who became one of Margaret Morris’ leading dancers, studied with Astafieva in 1918.8

Image: Advertisement for the Russian Dance Academy at 152, King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3, featuring a photograph of Serafina Astafieva, published in The Dancing Times, 1928, photographer unknown. Collection of the Royal Ballet School (RBS/AHDL/DT).

< Index
Chenil Gallery (later the New Chenil Galleries), 181–183 King’s Road

The Chenil Gallery was founded by John Knewstub in 1906. It exhibited the work of Chelsea artists including Augustus John, who sold many works through the gallery and occupied a large studio in the rear garden. William Rothenstein, William Orpen, and other Chenil artists used the gallery's etching press. By 1925, the Galleries had acquired the adjacent premises with the intention of running an art school and repertory theatre as well as exhibiting paintings and sculpture, but by 1927 John Knewstub was bankrupt.9

Image: The New Chenil Galleries, King’s Road, Chelsea, auction advertisement in Architects’ Journal, 23 June 1926, reproduced in Anne Helmreich and Ysanne Holt, "Marketing Bohemia: The Chenil Gallery in Chelsea, 1905-1926", Oxford Art Journal 33, no. 1 (2010): 45-61 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

< Index
Chelsea Palace Theatre, 232–242 King’s Road (demolished 1960s)

The orange-red terracotta dome of this theatre made it a feature of the King’s Road skyline. Designed by Oswald Wylson and Charles Long in baroque style with stalls, circle and boxes, it originally opened as “Chelsea Palace of Varieties” music hall in 1903 and hosted plays, ballet, and—in 1923—films.10

Image: Chelsea Palace Theatre, 232-42 King's Road, undated, colour-tinted postcard.

< Index
Local Cinemas, King’s Road

By 1912, there were six cinemas or theatres showing films in Chelsea, and most of them were on or close to the King’s Road, including Chelsea Electric Palace, 180–182 King’s Road; Cremorne Cinema, World’s End, King’s Road; Electric Theatre, 148–150 King’s Road designed by Felix Joubert in 1912; King’s Picture Playhouse, Church Street; Royal Electric Theatre, Draycott Avenue; and The Palace of Varieties, King’s Road.11

< Index
Margaret Morris, 1 Glebe Place

Margaret Morris lived here from about 1917 to 1930. By 1917, her dance school had expanded and was partly housed at 1 Glebe Place, which was a few minutes’ walk from her theatre. She kept the wardrobe department in the basement while her mother ran the school office on the ground floor and her aunt, Miss Maundrell, ran the day school on the first floor room. The dancer Kathleen Dillon also shared their home and for a time the dancer Loïs Hutton lived in the attic.12

In 1914, the balcony of a private house in Glebe Place was the setting for a speech by the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst:

"We are fighting for a time when every little girl born into the world will have an equal chance with her brothers, when we shall put an end to foul outrages upon our sex, when our streets shall be safe for the girlhood of our race, when every man shall look upon every other woman as his own sisters."13

Image: Matthew Hollow, 1 Glebe Place, 2019, photograph.

< Index
Maxwell Armfield and Constance Smedley Armfield, 39 Glebe Place

The Armfields rented this studio apartment when they moved to London in early 1915, and used it to stage performances by their new theatre company, the Greenleaf Players. It was here that Vernon Lee gave the first recital of The Ballet of the Nations, at a meeting of the Union of Democratic Control that the Armfields hosted.

Image: Matthew Hollow, 39 Glebe Place,, 2019, photograph.

< Index
C.R. Mackintosh and Margaret Mackintosh, 43a and 49 Glebe Place

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret used two interconnected studios at 43a Glebe Place from 1915. They rented nearby accommodation on Oakley Street. Mackintosh also designed a studio-house at 49 Glebe Place, which was occupied by Harold Squire, the artist and member of the Council of the Arts League of Service.

Image: Matthew Hollow, 49 Glebe Place, 2019, photograph.

< Index
Proposed site of the new Margaret Morris Theatre, between Glebe Place, Oakley Street, and Upper Cheyne Row

Mackintosh’s design for a small theatre included a striking elevation reminiscent of Vienna Secession-influenced buildings. It was probably intended for a site between Oakley Street, Glebe Place, and Upper Cheyne Row, but like several of the buildings that he designed for sites in Chelsea during 1919–1921, it was never built.14

Image: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, M343-002 Design for a theatre for Margaret Morris, Chelsea, front elevation, 1920, pencil, ink and wash, 43.9 x 72 cm. Collection The Hunterian, University of Glasgow (GLAHA 52590).

< Index
The Blue Cockatoo, 35 Cheyne Walk

The Blue Cockatoo was a local meeting place for the artistic community, including Augustus John, Randolph Schwabe, J.D. Fergusson, and Margaret Morris, who were apparently not put off by the unappetising food and erratic service, nor the décor which was described as “ugly yellow and black”.15

Image: Christopher Sanders, The Blue Cockatoo, undated, oil on canvas, 50.8 x 60.96 cm.
Digital image courtesy of Private Collection.

< Index
Jacob Epstein, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Henry James, Cheyne Walk

Several notable figures lived on Cheyne Walk in the early twentieth century: Sylvia Pankhurst lived at 120 Cheyne Walk; Jacob Epstein was a resident at number 72 before the First World War; Henry James lived at 21 Cheyne Walk from 1913; and Edward McKnight Kauffer and Raymond McIntyre took 122 Cheyne Walk in about 1917, “to paint the river, principally”.16 At the end of the nineteenth century, the Arts and Crafts architect C.R. Ashbee designed a group of studio houses on the Walk, including no. 37, where he lived until 1917.

After the war, The Chelsea Book Club Gallery, at 65 Cheyne Walk, held exhibitions and lectures as well as selling books. Reviewing its opening exhibition of French drawings in 1920, Ezra Pound had high hopes for the Club which offered “an open market for all contemporary literature and for all schools of art.”17 However, he advised it to exhibit works by English painters, noting that “[w]e have local products quite as good”.18

“Chelsea is doing its brave best to bear up against the boredom of the between war-working hours. One charming little hostess, in particular, Mrs. Eveline Sainsbury, has been successful in making her studio parties a great antidote to war weariness. In her quaintly decorated house in Royal Hospital Road you meet all the young artists who keep London humming like the big black beehive that it is.”19

Image: Cheyne Walk, looking west, 1908, photograph. Collection London Metropolitan Archives (SC_PHL_01_064_81_8960).
Digital image courtesy of City of London Corporation.

< Index
Crosby Hall and More’s Garden, Cheyne Walk

Built in 1466 by Sir John Crosby, this historic building was moved from Bishopsgate to Chelsea in 1910. Margaret Morris performed an “afternoon of Greek Dances” there on 20 May 1912. In the midst of the First World War, in 1916, Henry James observed that “one of the noblest relics of the past that London could show” had been put to use housing Belgian refugees, becoming “the headquarters of the Chelsea circle of hospitality to the exiled.”20 At this time, an improvised stage was erected at the end of the great hall.

Image: Crosby Hall, Danvers Street, 1910, photograph. Collection London Metropolitan Archives (SC_PHL_01_066_91_66).
Digital image courtesy of City of London Corporation.

< Index
George Plank, 18 Cheyne Row

Home to George Wolfe Plank, the American illustrator, who designed covers for Vogue and worked with Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players.

Image: Cheyne Row looking south, 1900, hand-tinted postcard. Collection Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries (RBKC, Libraries Local Studies Chpc/15).

< Index
Vernon Lee, 23 Oakley Street

Vernon Lee lived here in 1916. By 1917 she had moved up the road to 34 Royal Avenue, Chelsea.21 Prior to August 1915, she had lived at 67 Torrington Square in Bloomsbury.

Image: Oakley Street and the Pier Hotel, ca. 1910, photo postcard (Sidder's Series 11133).
Digital image courtesy of A.R. Sidders and Co.

< Index
Edward McKnight Kauffer, Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street

In the early 1920s Edward McKnight Kauffer and his partner Marion Dorn lived in flats 139 and 141. Kauffer, who designed posters for London Transport, also designed advertising posters for the Arts League of Service.

Image: Matthew Hollow, Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street, 2019, photograph.

< Index
Augustus John, 28 Mallord Street

From 1914, the painter Augustus John lived on Mallord Street in a house designed by Robert van’t Hoff. He was a member of the Margaret Morris Movement Club, and in 1917, he painted her pupil Kathleen Dillon.

< Index
The Margaret Morris School of Dance, 37 Cranley Gardens

After the war, Margaret Morris’s School of Dance was located at the corner of Fulham Road and Cranley Gardens, parallel with King’s Road.

< Index
Henry Tonks, 88 Edith Grove

The artist Henry Tonks lived here in 1910, before moving to The Vale, Chelsea in winter 1910–1911.

< Index
J.D. Fergusson, 14 Redcliffe Road

Because they were unmarried, J.D. Fergusson lived apart from Margaret Morris in London for the sake of appearances. Morris remembered that their friends John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield had taken a flat opposite Fergusson at number 47. Fergusson regularly dined with Mansfield and Murry while they were neighbours, and Morris recalled that, although she was never asked to join them, she understood that “they wanted to re-live those wonderful years in Paris before the war when they started Rhythm.”22 Mansfield gives a vivid description of Fergusson’s studio in her journal:

“Very beautiful, oh God is a blue teapot with two white cups attending, a red apple among oranges addeth fire to flame—in the white bookcases the books fly up and down in scales of colour, with pink and lilac notes recurring until nothing remains but them, sounding over and over.”23

She also takes in the works in progress around the studio:

“a number of frames, some painted and some plain, leaning against the wall, and the picture of a naked woman with her arms raised, languid […] There are two sticks and an umbrella in one corner, and in the fireplace—a kettle, curiously like a bird.24

 

Image: Edward Bawden, Redcliffe Road, No. 6/35, etching, 15 x 9.5 cm.
Digital image courtesy of Edward Bawden Estate.

< Index
John Middelton Murry, 47 Redcliffe Road

John Middleton Murry rented rooms here from early 1917. Katherine Mansfield liked Redcliffe Road and wanted Murry to stay on there until after the war. As she wrote in her journal in April 1918, a month before she married Murry:

“It suits me. Whatever faults it has it is not at all bourgeois. There is ‘something a bit queer’ about all the people who live in it; they are all more or less ‘touched’. They walk about without their hats on and fetch and carry their food and even their coal. There are nearly four bells to every door—the curtains are all ‘odd’ and shabby.”25  

She confessed to feeling “somehow, free” in this milieu: “It has no abiding place, and neither have I.”26

< Index
Frank Dobson, 14 Harley Gardens

Frank Dobson, sculptor and friend of J.D. Fergusson and Margaret Morris, lived here. He also had a studio on Manresa Road.

Image: 14 Harley Gardens, Chelsea, 2011, photograph.
Digital image courtesy of Simon Harriyott.

< Index
Katherine Mansfield, 141a Old Church Street

On returning to London from Paris in early 1914, Katherine Mansfield moved with John Middleton Murry to live at several addresses in Fulham and Chelsea. In April, they took a flat at 119 Beaufort Mansions, followed by 102 Edith Grove, and by July they had moved to a furnished flat with two attic rooms and a kitchen in the top half of a house at 111 Arthur Street (now Dovehouse Street). After travelling abroad and living at various other addresses outside London, in early 1917, Mansfield took a studio at 141a Old Church Street and Murry rented two ground-floor rooms at 47 Redcliffe Road a few streets away. Mansfield’s friend Ida Baker described the Old Church Street studio with glass doors opening onto a communal garden as “rather lovely” on sunny days. Aldous Huxley was less convinced by the cramped living quarters, describing his visit to Mansfield “in her curious little kennel in Chelsea”.27

Image: Percy Robert Craft, Old Church Street, Chelsea, undated, oil on canvas, 51 x 66 cm. Collection of Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage (OP317).
Digital image courtesy of Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage.

< Index
Chelsea Arts Club, 143 Old Church Street

This club for Chelsea artists was founded by Whistler and his contemporaries in 1891 at 181 King’s Road and moved to its current location on Old Church Street in 1901. The Club’s famous fancy dress balls were held on New Year’s Eve at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington from 1910 for the following thirty years, to raise funds for artists’ charities.

Image: Chelsea Arts Club, 143 Old Church Street, 2015, photograph.
Digital image courtesy of Piero Spano (All rights reserved).

< Index
Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road

The garden was first established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and it still occupies four acres on the edge of Thames. It set the scene for Constance Smedley’s play, The Curious Herbal (1922).

Image: View of the Chelsea Physic Garden, ca. 1910, photograph. Collection of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries (RBKC, Libraries SB02 CM1608).

< Index
The Choric School, 71 Royal Hospital Road

“Chelsea is doing its brave best to bear up against the boredom of the between war-working hours. One charming little hostess, in particular, Mrs. Eveline Sainsbury, has been successful in making her studio parties a great antidote to war weariness. In her quaintly decorated house in Royal Hospital Road you meet all the young artists who keep London humming like the big black beehive that it is.” 28

< Index
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square

The Royal Court Theatre (also known as the Court Theatre and the New Chelsea Theatre) opened in 1888 on the east side of Sloane Square. In 1912, Margaret Morris and her Dancing Children performed there, in a bill that included The Little Dream by John Galsworthy, Callisto, and a selection of Morris’s own dances. The Plough Club also used it for at least one of their performances—The Sneezing Charm by Clifford Bax (9 June 1918). In 1907, the theatre hosted the first suffragette-themed play, Votes for Women! by Elizabeth Robins, who went on to found the Actresses’ Franchise League in 1908, together with Edith Wynne-Matthison.29

Image: Royal Court Theatre façade, Sloane Square, unknown date, photograph.
Digital image courtesy of Dorling Kindersley Ltd and Alamy Stock Photo.

< Index
Chelsea Barracks, Chelsea Bridge Road

The Australian artist and suffragette Dora Meeson Coates, who was Margaret Morris’ neighbour at Glebe Place, remembered the transformation in the area during the war:

“suddenly Chelsea seemed to become an armed camp. Soldiers were bivouacked in Ranelagh Gardens and in the Royal Hospital grounds, army motor lorries were rattling noisily along the usually quiet Embankment, and those hot nights we lay awake listening to the heavy, ominous rumble of laden troop-trains, all night long, slowly steaming out of Victoria Station.”30

 

 

Image: Unknown photographer, 2nd Battalion leaving for the front, Chelsea Barracks, 1914, photograph. Collection of the Grenadier Guards (Album 68, Grenadiers2746).

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Manresa Road Studios and Physical Training College

The Art School at South-Western Polytechnic Institute (known from 1922 as Chelsea Polytechnic) opened on the road in 1895. The Institute aimed to provide technical education and instruction in art and science and included the Physical Training College, which trained young ladies in Swedish gymnastic, games, and dancing. Morris’ pupil Loïs Hutton trained here in 1912 prior to joining the Margaret Morris Movement.

Image: Edward Lingwood, 278 Kings Road Chelsea, Manresa Road, 1882, oil on board, 30 x 22 cm.
Digital image courtesy of Museum of London.

< Index
Clifford Allen, 170 Overstrand Mansions

Clifford Allen, who ran the No-Conscription Fellowship and chaired the Chelsea branch of the organisation, lived just over the Albert Bridge from Chelsea.31

< Index
Percy Wyndham Lewis, 5 Cromwell Place

The artist Percy Wyndham Lewis lived at this location near to the Royal Albert Hall, and at several other Kensington addresses, including 61 Palace Gardens Terrace from 1919–1939.

< Index
E.O. Hoppé, 7 Cromwell Place

The photographer E.O. Hoppé lived here from 1913.

Image: Cromwell Place, South Kensington, undated, postcard. Collection of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries (RBKC, Libraries).

< Index
Ruby Ginner School of Dance and Mime, Royal Albert Hall

Like Margaret Morris, Ruby Ginner was a pioneer of classical Greek dance in the early twentieth century. She was also a political radical committed to the suffrage cause and a member of the Women’s Freedom League. The photograph shows Ginner at the Women’s Freedom League International Suffrage Fair held at Chelsea Town Hall in November 1912, which featured her Selection of Dances of All Nations. She developed her repertoire of dance movements by studying the dancing figures depicted on ancient Greek vases and other artefacts, as well as the Greek chorus in theatre. She founded The Grecian Dancers in 1913, shortly followed by the Ruby Ginner School of Dance (incorporating mime when she was joined by mime artist Irene Mawer). In the following decade, she founded the Greek Dance Association (1923) to promote her research and movement practice. Her School of Dance and Mime advertised “[t]he study of dancing throughout the ages, including the Ancient Egyptian and Greek National, and Operatic Ballet Dancing; and the interpretation in movement of Music and Verse; also the Legitimate Mime of the old French and Italian Schools.”32 In advertisements, the postal address for her school was given as the Royal Albert Hall.

Image: Christina Broom, Ruby Ginner at the Women's Freedom League International Suffrage Fair held at Chelsea Town Hall, November 1912, photograph.
Digital image courtesy of Museum of London

< Index
The Lyceum Club, 128 Piccadilly

Constance Smedley’s ambition was to provide professional women with facilities to match those of their male colleagues. When the Lyceum Club took premises in Piccadilly, the heart of male clubland, it caused quite a stir. As the London Daily News reported: “The arrangements mark quite a new epoch in club life for women, and the Lyceum, it is hoped, will ‘provide a common meeting ground for women throughout the world who are workers in literature, art, or science, including medicine.’”33

Image: Lyceum Club, 128 Picadilly, unknown date.

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The Café Royal, Regent Street

The Café Royal was a meeting place for artists and writers including Augustus John, Jacob Epstein, and Ezra Pound, as well as Japanese dancers Ito Michio and Foujita Tsuguharu. Many of those who travelled from continental Europe at the outbreak of war were drawn to the Café’s cosmopolitan atmosphere and German- and French-speaking clientele. In an article on “The Café Royal in War Time”, published in July 1915, M.J. Woddis observed that: “The War has wrought many unexpected changes in our national institutions, and the Cafe Royal, as one of them, has likewise been affected in the transformation.” One of the most striking changes he noticed was that “now a large cosmopolitan crowd throngs the building”. That crowd included a “large influx of Russian, Belgian, and French refugees and American visitors, in place of the recalled Continental Reservists and the newly-enlisted Britishers in the Artists’ Rifles and other regiments of the Crown”. Woddis paints a picture of the Café as a “community” of artists resembling the Latin Quarter in Paris, where different groups mingled and there was a “spirit of camaraderie” and “true intellectual democracy”: “All the arts, the professions, the races, the religions, the hobbies, the cranks, the idealists, the reformers, and all the grades of social life” were represented.34

Image: Charles Ginner, The Café Royal, 1911, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 48.3 cm. Collection of Tate (N05050).
Digital image courtesy of Tate.

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Theatre Royal, Haymarket

In 1909 Margaret Morris performed here in The Bluebird. In 1919, the British Drama League was publicly launched at the theatre.

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The Arts League of Service, 1 Robert Street, Adelphi

The flat was lent by a friend of the League, Miss Mary Hoadley Dodge. Eleanor Elder gave an account of the lodgings:

“In these luxurious surroundings we wrestled with our problems for some weeks before moving into premises on the first floor of the same house. In the meantime rehearsals were in full swing next door in my own flat, which was immediately under that of Sir James Barrie. The piano was going constantly […] A distinguished neighbour was Bernard Shaw. Our windows overlooked his flat, and when the light was in a certain direction we were thrilled by the shadowy outline of his beard over his breakfast table.”35

Image: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Perspective of a block of studios and studio flats, reproduced on the cover of Bulletin of the Arts League of Service, n.d.
Digital image courtesy of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow.

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Union of Democratic Control, 37 Norfolk Street, Strand

This pressure group was set up in 1914 to scrutinise the conduct of the war and to promote international disarmament. It involved several of those who worked with the little theatres, who were attracted by its commitment to freedom of thought and expression. Members who feature in this virtual exhibition included Vernon Lee, Maxwell Armfield, Constance Smedley, and C.K. Ogden. The UDC played a crucial part in the publication of The Ballet of the Nations, as Lee recited her text at UDC meetings in summer 1915.

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The Bomb Shop (Henderson’s Bookshop), 66 Charing Cross Road

Nicknamed “the Bomb Shop”, Henderson’s serves as a link between the different sections of this exhibition, and between the London little theatres and the left wing of the British peace movement. The shop was opened in 1909 by Francis Henderson, a publisher who had connections with Tolstoyan circles in London, and it became a centre for radical left, anarchist, and modernist publishing. It was decorated in red and gold by the artist-craftsman Walter Crane, with the names of rebel heroes written on the walls. Works published included pacifist plays and tracts by the actor Miles Malleson, David Bomberg’s Russian Ballet (1919), and the modernist magazine Coterie (1919–1921).

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Edith Craig, 31 Bedford Street

Edith Craig lived here with her partners Christopher St John and Tony Atwood; Atwood joined the household in 1916. The International Suffrage Shop, run by Sime Seruya, had operated from the flat until February 1911.

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Hester Sainsbury, 52 Wimpole Street

Hester Sainsbury, leader of the Choric School, lived here in 1913.

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The British Drama League, 9–10 Fitzroy Square

The headquarters of the British Drama League in London was the hub of a nationwide network. The growth of the organisation can be traced through its changes of accommodation, starting in 1919 with the rental of half a room in Covent Garden on Southampton Street, and building up–via rented accommodation at 10 King Street from 1921, and at 8 Adelphi Terrace from 1925–to the purchase in 1935 of a Georgian townhouse in Fitzrovia, which housed the League’s enormous library.36

Image: Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, Fitzroy Square, 1923–24, oil on panel, 38 x 27.5 cm. Collection of Tate (N04979).
Digital image courtesy of Tate.

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Lady Ottoline Morrell, 44 Bedford Square

The Bloomsbury hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell lived at 44 Bedford Square. During the war, the Japanese dancer Ito Michio was invited to dance in Lady Ottoline’s drawing room. Ito recalled that the costumes she provided:

“were wonderful—everything real. They made me want to dance. I chose a pair of Turkish trousers and a short Spanish jacket and performed, to some Chopin, a dance I had composed for my examination in Dalcroze.”37

From November 1914 to April 1915, Ito frequently attended the Thursday evenings hosted by Lady Ottoline and her husband Philip. Lady Ottoline remembered guests dressing “in gay Persian, Turkish, and other oriental clothes” and Ito performing “wild and imaginative” dance interpretations of old music hall song tunes.38

Image: Unknown photographer, 44 Bedford Square, early 1910s, postcard print, 13 x 8 cm. Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG x144196).

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The Attic, Home of Miles and Constance Malleson

Miles Malleson and his wife, Lady Constance Malleson, were both actors who campaigned for the peace movement during the First World War. From June 1915, they lived on Bernard Street in a flat known as the “Attic” (when they moved to a flat on the south side of Mecklenburgh Square in summer 1917, they called it the “new attic”).39 It became a meeting place for pacifists, including “Bomb” Henderson, the philosopher Bertrand Russell who had a serious relationship with Constance Malleson, the politician Clifford Allen who was chairman of the No-Conscription Fellowship, and the novelist Douglas Goldring who described the “Attic” in his memoirs. The flat was eccentrically decorated: with walls painted bright green, shelves full of books by Edward Carpenter, and curtains from the West African market.

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W.B. Yeats, 5 Woburn Walk

The poet W.B. Yeats lived on Woburn Walk, near Tavistock Square, from 1895–1919.

The Margaret Morris Theatre
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The Margaret Morris Theatre was central to the development of experimental theatre in London and became a gathering point for artists, writers, and musicians more widely during the war. It was opened in June 1914 by the dancer Margaret Morris (1891–1980) and her partner, the artist J.D. Fergusson (1874–1961), on the first floor of the Temperance Billiard Hall on the corner of the King’s Road and Flood Street.40 The couple had met in Paris in 1913, where Morris was visiting to perform with her “Dancing Children” and Fergusson lived as an avant-garde artist. At the outbreak of the First World War, he moved reluctantly to London where they both missed the Parisian café culture and set about trying to recreate it.41 The Margaret Morris Theatre became a substitute for the music halls, cafés, and studios of bohemian Paris. It staged productions by the Margaret Morris School and other little theatres, and hosted the Margaret Morris Club, which met thrice monthly for performances, debates, and social dancing. The Club was attended by many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the day, including the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, the designer Margaret Mackintosh, who moved from Glasgow to London in 1915; Vorticists such as Wyndham Lewis, Jacob Epstein, Edward Wadsworth, and Ezra Pound; the writers Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry, and the artist Anne Estelle Rice, all of whom were involved in the modernist magazine Rhythm; composers such as Eugene Goossens, Cyril Scott, and Constant Lambert, and the photographer E.O. Hoppé. Many of these figures recur elsewhere in this exhibition as part of the closely involved network of little theatres and related projects operating in London during the war.

DOI Figure 2

Margaret Morris, “A Beautiful Dancer who is Opening a Little Dance Theatre in Chelsea”, The Tatler 56, no. 725 (19 May 1915), 201.
Digital image courtesy of Private Collection.

This photo portrait of Margaret Morris, advertising her theatre in the pages of Tatler, shows off the Grecian aesthetic that underpinned her dance method. She trained as a child in classical ballet but, like other dancers of the day—Isadora Duncan, Ruth St Denis, Loïs Hutton—she felt drawn to more natural systems of movement. She learned the basic positions of her technique from Raymond Duncan, brother of Isadora, who worked from Hellenic vase painting to recreate the dance rituals of ancient Greece.42 The “Margaret Morris Movement”, as it became known, celebrated dance as a return to the idea of rhythmic movement rooted in religious ritual. Costumes were diaphanous and the dancers barefoot and often out of doors.

DOI Figure 3

J.D. Fergusson, Café-Concert des Ambassadeurs, 1907, oil paint on board, 37.5 x 41.3 cm. Collection of Tate (N05880).
Digital image courtesy of The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council. Photo: Tate (All rights reserved).

Fergusson’s painting of a Parisian café-concert tells us a lot about the culture that he and Morris were seeking to recreate in London during the war. The café-concert, or café chantant, was popular across Europe at the turn of the twentieth century as a place to meet, eat, and enjoy the entertainment, usually out of doors.43 Fergusson’s painting conveys a vivid impression of one such establishment—the golden glow of light around the dancers against a bright blue sky, and the swirl of spectators in the shadowy foreground, who are themselves part of the spectacle.

DOI Figure 4

Margaret Morris Theatre Programme, 2 June 1915, illustration by Margaret Morris. Collection of Margaret Morris Movement International Limited.
Digital image courtesy of Margaret Morris Movement International Limited.

The Margaret Morris School of Dancing staged a number of performances during the war. This theatre programme, designed by Morris herself, shows off the distinctive costuming that characterised her productions. Morris is pictured on the left in an elaborate headdress and the dancer to the rear holds out an enormous skirt decorated with an all-over leaf-like pattern. The dancer to the front gestures in a way that was typical of the style of movement practised in the London little theatres at this time—wrists and elbows flexed and pointing hieroglyphically to one side.

DOI Figure 5

Margaret Morris, Kathleen and Mirror, 1915, oil on card on board, 42.5 x 34 cm. Collection of Perth and Kinross Council (2011.31).
Digital image courtesy of Margaret Morris Movement International Limited. Photo: Perth and Kinross Council (All rights reserved).

Margaret Morris encouraged her students to practise a range of art forms—painting, music, and writing, as well as dance—and to treat them all as aspects of a single, integrated practice. In this respect, her work drew on the idea of the total work of art that was promoted by other groups across Europe, from the Ballets Russes to Der Blaue Reiter. Painting at the Margaret Morris School was taught by J.D. Fergusson, Morris’s partner, and her portrait of Kathleen Dillon, shown here, recalls his fleshy, highly coloured, stylised modelling of the human figure. Dillon was one of Morris’s original “dancing children” and taught at the Margaret Morris School from 1917.44 She formed her own group, the Choric School, together with the dancer Hester Sainsbury and the poet John Rodker, and performed also with the Greenleaf Theatre.45

DOI Figure 6

Eugene Goossens, Four Conceits: The Marionette Show, Op. 20, No. 4, 1917, performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, directed by Sir Andrew Davis, 1.19 minutes.
Digital courtesy of Chandos.

The composer Eugene Goossens was a regular at the Margaret Morris Club, where he would “sit down and improvise on the piano and generate a real excitement”, as Morris later recalled.46 Two of his wartime compositions explore ideas of play and puppetry that were important to the little theatres: Four Conceits (1917), which includes “Dance Memories” and “The Marionette Show”; and Kaleidoscope for piano (1917), a set of twelve miniature compositions which follow a child’s day from “Good Morning” to “Goodnight”. “March of the Wooden Soldier”, “The Punch and Judy Show”, and “The Clockwork Dancer” are among the entertainments, while “Lament to a Departed Doll” picks up on the elegiac associations with toys and puppets that were prevalent at this time.47 Both sets of music were taken up by members of the Ballets Russes after the war. In 1919, Diaghilev used Four Conceits as a “Symphonic Interlude” for the Ballets Russes season at the Alhambra Theatre. In 1920, Goossens orchestrated “The Hurdy Gurdy Man” from Kaleidoscope for the prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina.48 

DOI Figure 7

Eugene Goossens, Kaleidoscope, Op. 18, Nos 1-12, 1917, performed by Antony Gray, 15.19 minutes.
Digital courtesy of ABC Classics.

The Greenleaf Theatre
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Constance Smedley and Maxwell Armfield founded the Greenleaf Players when they moved to London in early 1915 as a step towards joining the little theatre movement in the USA.49 Their involvement in theatre had begun some four years earlier when they lived in Minchinhampton, in the heart of the Cotswolds, and staged the Gloucestershire Historical Pageant of Progress (1911) as a rural extravaganza starring hundreds of local people from the surrounding villages.50 It led to the formation of their first company, the Cotswold Players, which toured the village halls in an effort to reach audiences as widely as possible—beyond a conventional theatre-going audience. Their style of production was inspired by the holistic “art of the theatre” promoted in Edward Gordon Craig’s journals The Mask and The Marionette.51 They saw themselves working in the tradition of the medieval troubadours, much as William Morris sought to revive the artists’ guilds of the Middle Ages. The style they wanted to achieve was harmonious, ritualistic, and anti-naturalistic—folk and fairy tales performed against simple, portable sets, using strictly choreographed movements and a carefully scripted, chanting intonation. When they started up in London, they were exhilarated to find other groups striving for a similar effect. “I shall never forget,” wrote Smedley in her memoirs,

the thrill of wonder and rapture when the curtains drew back and we beheld for the first time the drama of our dreams: voice and movement and picture accurately synthesized, depending on the rhythmic pattern for charm and interest instead of on the emotional exercise of the players’ personality.52

This section of the exhibition focuses on Armfield’s illustrations, particularly those for his play The Minstrel, which he staged in Chelsea in summer 1915, as a crucial link between the London little theatres, the peace movement, and the publication of The Ballet of the Nations.

DOI Figure 8

Maxwell Ashby Armfield, The Minstrel, written and performed ca.1915 (London: Duckworth, 1922-1925), cover design. Collection Tate Archive (TGA 976/7/1/12).

DOI Figure 9

Maxwell Ashby Armfield, The Minstrel, written and performed ca.1915 (London: Duckworth, 1922-1925), page 15 featuring “Body-Movement Script”. Collection Tate Archive (TGA 976/7/1/12).

Maxwell Armfield’s play The Minstrel tells the tale of a wandering musician who finds a country ravaged by war and whose music restores it to peace and plenty. It is a coded reflection on Armfield’s own sense of himself as an artist and pacifist, choosing to spend the war working in theatre but under increasing pressure to enlist—conscription came into force in Britain in March 1916, shortly before the Armfields left London for New York. After the war, they brought out their plays as a series of miniature pamphlets with cover designs that related closely to the Greenleaf aesthetic. The “body-movement script” which prefaces the text of The Minstrel shows how they sought to impose a strict choreography on productions of their work. It was most probably drawn by Smedley—Armfield states that her method was to make “hundreds of small drawings of movements and groupings, crystallising the continuous rhythmic structure of the play.”53 Smedley herself claimed that The Minstrel was the first play “to be completely worked out in formalised drawings, interpreted by the actors as musicians might interpret a score, or dancers a formal dance.”54

DOI Figure 10

Unknown photographer, Maxwell Ashby Armfield with Phyllis Holt and Joyce Holt as the King, the Minstrel and the Maid, in Maxwell Ashby Armfield, The Minstrel, staged at the Maxwell Armfield studio, Glebe Place, London, 1915, photograph, 11.6 x 8.8 cm. Collection Tate Archive (TGA 976/6/4).
Digital image courtesy of Tate Archive and The Estate of Maxwell Ashby Armfield.

A remarkable set of photographs survives from the Greenleaf Players’ production of The Minstrel in 1915, demonstrating a direct connection between Armfield’s “pictorial commentary” on The Ballet of the Nations and the ideas about theatre that he was exploring at this time. The photographs are compiled in a home-made album labelled “London 1915”, stuck onto coarse blue paper and each surrounded by a hand-drawn, brightly coloured frame. Several of them are strikingly close to pages from The Ballet. The image shown here, for example, evokes a scene of conversation among the female nations of The Ballet, in its juxtaposition of seated and standing figures, the patterned, archaic costumes, and the gesturing of the hand, palm upwards. In her memoirs, Smedley described the production which took place first in the Armfield’s own studio, then by invitation at the Margaret Morris Theatre, where they “cleared the expenses and divided the profits among the actors, who received five shillings each!” (£25 in today’s terms).55 Her account situates the performance within the little theatre network:

 

“Geoffrey Whitworth was again an enthusiastic colleague, and we found two delightful girls, Phillis and Joyce Holt, who were keen dance-students, working out their own old dances from scripts in the British Museum […] Included in the framework of verse was a tribute to Hester Sainsbury, who had foreseen our vision and had been carrying it out while we had been struggling in the Cotswolds.”56

DOI Figure 11

Maxwell Ashby Armfield, “Their Feet from Thin Dusk Raiment Now and Then Would Gleam upon the Polished Edges of the Stream”, in William Morris, The Life and Death of Jason (London: Headley Brothers, 1915), opposite 274.

Armfield’s illustrated edition of William Morris’s epic poem was published in the same year as The Ballet of the Nations and uses the same visual language. His prefatory “Note on the Drawings” articulates his approach to book illustration at this time in a way which is strongly reminiscent of The Ballet:

 

“No attempt has been made in the drawings to convey an impression with line similar in kind to that conveyed by the words of the text […] This point of view must consider the embellishment not so much as illustration proceeding from the text as a continuation of the binding and page purposing to present the text to the eye; or as a commentary on certain aspects of the matter not necessarily touched on at all by the author.”57 

 

The edition brings together two artists who were important to Armfield’s work: William Morris as the leader of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and Edward Gordon Craig, whom Armfield evoked when he explained that:

 

“The persons are represented by broad types moving if at all with a sort of hierarchic precision reminiscent of the more dignified marionette, the broad simple ideas being conveyed not with eye and eye-brow, but with the gesture of the entire body.”58 

 

The copy of the book from which this image is taken is inscribed to “Mr and Mrs Haddon Squire with best wishes for 1916 from Maxwell Armfield”. Haddon Squire was a neighbour on Glebe Place who featured in the life of the London theatre network as a member of the council of the Arts League of Service.

DOI Figure 12

Maxwell Ashby Armfield, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1915, oil on canvas, 29.8 x 35 cm. Collection of National Portrait Gallery (NPG 4947).
Digital image courtesy of Estate of Maxwell Armfield / Bridgeman Images. Photo: National Portrait Gallery (All rights reserved).

Armfield’s friendship with the artist Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890–1954), or “K” as he called him, was important to his experience of living in Chelsea during the war.59 Kauffer encouraged him as he worked on his illustrations for The Ballet of the Nations, and the two would go together to Chelsea Library and “pore over the journals in which were reproduced all the best Continental designs”, particularly—and, in the context of the war, controversially—those from Germany.60 When Armfield moved to the USA in 1916, Kauffer continued to send him art publications from Britain, including issues of Colour, which was a journal of some significance to the little theatre network in London.61 Like several of those who feature in this exhibition, Kauffer moved to London at the outbreak of war in 1914, where he clearly felt at home with the pacifist avant-garde. He lived in Chelsea, sold his drawings at Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops, and worked for the Arts League of Service.62 Armfield’s portrait of his friend standing against the trunk of a Californian pine points to the New World, which the Armfields hoped shortly to join. The depiction of the head in profile was characteristic of the hieratic style of portraiture which Armfield drew from various European sources, including ancient Greek vase painting.

DOI Figure 13

Maxwell Armfield (lyrics), S. J. Underwood (music), Wander Song, in Maxwell Armfield, The Grassblade (London: Duckworth, 1922), 15.

Greenleaf programmes consisted of small plays in a “connected tracery of song, dance, poem and antick”, a formula which was also used by other little theatres.63 The Armfields favoured composers such as Edward Elgar, Percy Pitt, and Roger Quilter, then at the cutting-edge of British music, whom they appreciated for their “unusual harmonies”.64 They also drew on traditional melodies at a time when Cecil Sharp was leading a revival of English folk song. Constance Smedley made her name as a music critic in the 1890s,65 and music was important to the way that she thought about theatre as a form of rhythmic performance.66 Her own Greenleaf plays were structured like sonatas, she explained:

 

“Allegretto, Andante, Largo, Trio or Scherzo, etc., the metre changing and the general structure of the different parts; this making a form that was satisfying in itself and which gave a curious sense of satisfaction to the audiences, quite apart from the dramatic content of the plays.”67

 

The relationship between song and movement was carefully mapped out. “Wander Song” was published together with a “movement script”. “The Green Tree”, which featured alongside The Minstrel when the company performed at the Margaret Morris Theatre in June 1915, was a “gesture-song”.68

 “The Artist’s Precept”, which prefaces The Minstrel, was supposedly written by a Chinese poet called Pai Ta-Shun. Armfield noted his “indebtedness to the translator of his poem from the Chinese, whose identity he has so far been unable to discover.”69 In 1917, the mystery was solved. Pai Ta-Shun was unmasked as Frederick Peterson (the surname was simply transliterated), a white American physician and student of Chinese poetry—a flagrant case of the mixture of fiction and scholarship that characterised the invention of the Orient.70

DOI Figure 14

Constance Smedley (lyrics), sung to the Troubadour air “A l’Entrada Deltemps Clar”, The Green Tree, Greenleaf Songs no. 1 (The Greenleaf Press, nd).

DOI Figure 15

Pai Ta-Shun (lyrics), Maxwell Armfield (music), The Artist's Precept, in The Minstrel (London: Duckworth, 1922), 20.

The Choric School
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The Choric School, sometimes known as the Clarissa Club, started in summer 1913 and remained active in Chelsea throughout the war.71 Those involved included Hester Sainsbury (1890–1967), who led the group; Kathleen Dillon (1898–1990), one of Margaret Morris’s original “dancing children”; Evelyn Sainsbury (1891–1927), Hester’s friend and sister-in-law; and John Rodker (1894–1955), a poet of the Whitechapel Boys.72 Their method was distinctive. Rodker described how “a party of young women in an old house in Chelsea” were “striving hard to take the art of dancing a step further ahead” through performances that were ”marionette-like but with the dolls speaking and behind all a strong artistic reason.”73 Sainsbury wanted to achieve what she called “a purely conventional method of representation both in acting and dancing” in order to express emotion, unadulterated by “impure” realism or “the equally destructive element of the performer himself.”74 As an observer, Constance Smedley emphasised the ritualistic quality of their rhymed plays in which every element was “accurately synthesised, depending on the rhythmic pattern for charm and interest instead of on the emotional exercise of the players’ personality.” Their habit of performing in contemporary dress, she remembered, gave their productions a “curious modern flair, like the decorative fashion drawings of Vogue or Vanity Fair.”75

DOI

By 1915, the group had established a base at 71 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, where Evelyn Sainsbury kept a studio.76 Their soirées were “a great antidote to war weariness”, according to the society weekly, The Sketch: “One dances a few fox-trots, one smokes while gazing at the Futurist ceiling”, and it was there that one could “meet all the young artists who keep London humming like the big black beehive that it is.”77 The house was, notably, a meeting place for Japanese expatriates, and as such provides a link between the London little theatres and the experiments in Noh theatre which W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound were conducting around this time.78 The painter Foujita (Fujita Tsuguji) lived at no. 71 during 1916.79 From 1917, the playwright Kori Torahiko, who worked with Yeats, was also resident, after he and Sainsbury became partners; and the dancers Michio Ito and Kumé Tamijiro were regular visitors. Others included the illustrator Edmund Dulac, who made masks and costumes for Yeats’s play At the Hawk’s Well; and the sculptor Jacob Epstein, who, like Pound, was also a member of the Margaret Morris Club, and who designed the décor for a production at the Plough Club in 1919.80 John Rodker, however, was compelled to leave Chelsea due to the precariousness of his position as a conscientious objector. He spent much of the war in hiding and then in prison on Dartmoor—an experience which he described in his pacifist testimonial, Memoirs of Other Fronts (London, 1932). There is no trace of the Choric School after the end of the war, although its members continued to do interesting work: Sainsbury as a wood engraver, Dillon as a dancer with the Arts League of Service, and Rodker as a writer and publisher.

DOI Figure 16

Sherril Schell, Photograph of a Performance by the Choric School, undated [1913-1915].
Digital image courtesy of Private Collection.

As a visual record of little theatre in Britain in the early twentieth century, this photograph is a rare survivor. It was taken by the American photographer Sherril Schell, who kept a studio in London between about 1910 and 1915.81 In 1913—the year that the Choric School began—he made a set of photographs of the poet Rupert Brooke that become iconic after Brooke died in active service in April 1915.

DOI Figure 17

Choric School programme, Four Dramatic Poems and Sylvius—A Pastoral, New Rehearsal Theatre, May 1913, front cover. Collection London School of Economics and Political Science Women's Library Collection (7HFD/A/03/26).

This programme for a run of performances by the “Clarissa Company” (another variation on their name) is a rare survival of their work before the First World War. The cover design is particularly interesting because it conveys a sense of their visual aesthetic, with minimal scenery, simple but dramatic lighting, and an emphasis upon expressive movement rather than the actor’s personality. The entertainment featured four dramatic poems—“The Idol”, “The Coquette”, “Mammon”, and “Venus and Adonis”—and a play titled Sylvius—A Pastoral. Hester Sainsbury was very much in charge of operations—she wrote and staged all the items herself and sold the tickets from her home at 52 Wimpole Street in Marylebone. It seems likely that she also designed the cover as she was an accomplished artist and is now better known for her work as an illustrator.82 Tickets were priced at 5s., 2/6, or 1s.—that is £28, £14, or £5.60 in today’s currency. Four evening shows were scheduled between 13 and 17 May at the New Rehearsal Theatre, Maiden Lane.

DOI Figure 18

John Rodker, Poems, (London: Ovid Press, 1914), cover design by David Bomberg.
Digital image courtesy of Private Collection.

Rodker produced this, his first collection of poems, in early 1914. Like much modernist literature, it was a modest publication—small, privately printed, “to be had of the Author 1 Osborn Street Whitechapel”, and no doubt of limited circulation. As an object, it stands out for its cover design by the Vorticist artist David Bomberg, also a “Whitechapel Boy”, who used the subject of modern dance as a way of investigating the new drive towards abstraction in the visual arts.83 His design drew on studies that he made of Rodker’s girlfriend, Sonia Cohen—to whom the book is dedicated—dancing with Margaret Morris.84 Cohen’s later account of the episode is worth quoting for what it tells us about the connections between different groups at this time, and between abstraction and its real-life inspirations:

 

“In 1913, when I went down to Southbourne to join a summer school dancing out-of-doors on the cliffs with Margaret Morris, Bomberg followed me down there with a few friends. He was in here with me at the time, and thought it a great lark to watch us all cavorting around in the open-air camp. The “Dancer” watercolours came out of his interest in all this, and I think you can see the bodies’ movement clearly in the designs.”85

DOI Figure 19

Alfred Kreymborg (ed.), Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, 1, no. 4: “The Choric School” (Grantwood New Jersey: Alfred Kreymborg, 1915): cover.
Digital image courtesy of The Modernist Journals Project, Brown University and the University of Tulsa.

In October 1915, the New York modernist, Alfred Kreymborg, devoted a whole issue of his little magazine Others to the Choric School, with a Foreword by Ezra Pound. It contained a selection of “Dance Poems” written by Sainsbury, Dillon, and Rodker, and Rodker’s play The Dutch Dolls. Pound was drawn by the “aroma" of their work, which to him seemed "sensuous and naïvely sophisticated." He felt that the pairing of word and movement in their performances had the potential to “reanimate” modern poetry, just as dance song had transformed European poetry in the Middle Ages.86

DOI Figure 20

Kathleen Dillon, Poems for Dancing, in Alfred Kreymborg, ed., Others: A Magazine of the New Verse 1, no. 4: ‘The Choric School Number’ (1915), 60-61. Recited by Sonya Cullingford, 2019.

“[I] consider it is a wrong idea that dance must be assisted by music. A dance can be equally successful with metre used as time and words as melody”, declared Hester Sainsbury.87 For Ezra Pound, her practice of dancing to spoken verse was revelatory because it fused word and movement together into a total work of art. Indeed, he only began to understand their poetry when he saw Sainsbury and Dillon perform: “I then understood the curious breaks and pauses, the elaborate system of dots and dashes with which this new group is wont to adorn its verses.”88

DOI Figure 21

Hester Sainsbury, Letter to Constance Smedley, 23 March 1915.

DOI Figure 22

Hester Sainsbury, Letter to Constance Smedley, 23 March 1915.

This note is important because it corroborates Smedley’s later claim that the Armfields mixed with members of the Choric School on their move to London, and that they “co-operated by attending each other’s theatres”.89 In the letter, Sainsbury invites the Armfields to a private viewing of a performance and suggests that they might help to attract an audience. She has enjoyed seeing their art and looks forward to an exhibition of Maxwell Armfield’s paintings in tempera. She ends on a note of solidarity: “It is a great pleasure to find people so interested and keen as you are, I’m sure many more will be some day.”89

For their part, the Armfields remembered the Clarissa Club as “the most entirely thrilling and ‘different’ of the various experimental dramatic groups” in London at that time.91 Smedley created what appears to be a fictional version of the group in her wartime novel, Justice Walk (written 1915, published 1925), in which she imagined two innocent, pretty, idealistic young women setting up a children’s theatre in Chelsea where they perform “poetical plays” of their own invention.92 Their home is painted like a stage set (the ceilings in “fantastic colours”), they dress flamboyantly (“stockings patterned in broad rings of emerald and white”), and they “melt out of one movement into another as instinctively as their voices melt from one note to another in a sort of speaking tune.”93

The Plough Club
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The Plough Club was established in December 1917 “for the purpose of stimulating interest in good art of an unconventional kind”.94 Like other experimental theatres, it was inspired by ideas of aesthetic synthesis and encouraged a collaborative approach amongst all those involved in making a performance. Its programme aligned it with the symbolist aesthetic and dissident politics that characterised the wartime little theatres more widely. The repertoire included works by Émile Verhaeren, the Belgian symbolist poet and pacifist, who moved to England at the outbreak of the war; Maurice Maeterlinck, including the first English-speaking production of his play Joyzelle, with stage designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh; Khori Torahiko, the Japanese playwright who was instrumental in bringing Noh theatre to European modernism; and Miles Malleson, a conscientious objector, who worked for the No Conscription Fellowship, and whose pacifist plays were seized by the police.95 Seasons at the Plough alternated plays and music, and the concert repertoire gives us a flavour of the sort of music that was favoured by the little theatres—Frederic Austin, Granville Bantock, Arnold Bax, Eugene Goossens, Julius Harrison, Gustav Holst, and Cyril Scott amongst contemporary British composers; Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Joseph-Guy Ropartz, Nikolay Karlovich Medtner, Isaac Albéniz, Joaquín Turina, Gabriel Grovlez, Roger Penau, and Alexander Sergievich Tanieff amongst the Europeans.

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The Plough was the brainchild of the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the German photographer Emil Otto Hoppé. The organising committee included eminent representatives from the worlds of music (Granville Bantock, Eugene Goossens, Arnold Bax), literature (Clifford Bax, Laurence Binyon), theatre (John Drinkwater, George de Warfaz), photography (Alvin Langdon Coburn), and the fine arts (Jacob Epstein, Glyn Philpot). The membership for 1918 reveals a lot about the club’s demographic. Of the 188 members, 116 were women; most worked in the arts. The next most significant group was the aristocracy, suggesting that the Plough had a certain social caché—Hoppé would have worked his connections as a society portraitist. Those titled members included several patrons of the avant-garde: Baroness d’Erlanger, who supported Sergei Diaghilev; Lord Howard de Walden, who financed the bohemian Crab Tree Club and was “blessed” in the Vorticist magazine Blast; and Lady Maud Warrender, one of the foremost music patrons of the early twentieth century. Other members stand out because they offer us a glimpse of the causes of the day: Havelock Ellis, who wrote pioneering studies of homosexual and transgender identities; Marion Halsey, who promoted women’s Freemasonry; and Louis Garvin, the newspaper editor who campaigned for a fair peace settlement with Germany. There is much overlap between the Plough and other little theatres in London: Mackintosh and Hoppé were members of the Margaret Morris Club; Khori staged Noh plays with the Pioneer Players; Epstein had links with the Choric School; Drinkwater was a friend of Maxwell Armfield; Goossens worked closely with Margaret Morris from 1915 onwards; and the Pioneer Players and the Margaret Morris School collaborated in a Plough Club production of The Sneezing Charm (June 1918).96 The Plough flourished into the early 1920s but then “died of its own vitality”, as Hoppé put it, as its members left to take up other work.97

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Prospectus for the Plough Club, 1919. Collection of E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection and Curatorial Assistance Inc.
Digital image courtesy of Hoppé Estate Collection and Curatorial Assistance Inc. (All rights reserved).

Few records of the Plough Club survive, so this leaflet provides important evidence of its constitution and activities. The name, we discover from the frontispiece drawing, comes from the constellation. The leaflet outlines the aims—to promote “unconventional” art of “merit and originality”—and it enables us to measure them against the programme of events that took place in 1918–1919. We learn also that members paid two guineas per annum to attend six performances—about £50 in today’s terms—and that concerts and plays were equally weighted. Events took place on a Sunday at irregular intervals, suggesting that the programme was somewhat improvised.

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E.O. Hoppé, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1922, photograph. Collection of E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection and Curatorial Assistance Inc.
Digital image courtesy of Hoppé Estate Collection and Curatorial Assistance Inc. (All rights reserved).

Hoppé’s portrait of Mackintosh, silver-haired and magisterial, testifies to their joint venture in setting up the Plough Club. At the time, Hoppé was the more successful of the two artists, although the situation is very different now. When Mackintosh moved from Glasgow to London in 1915, his career as an architect was at a low point. Connections that he made through the Plough led to several commissions and helped to revive his fortunes.98 Hoppé, by contrast, was a celebrity whose work has recently been rediscovered after a period of posthumous neglect.99 He photographed many leading figures of his day from the arts, politics, and high society, and his work acts as a thread that connects the sections of this exhibition.

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George Sheringham, Mesaur the Chief Executioner, costume design for The Sneezing Charm, Royal Court Theatre, June 1918. Collection of Victoria and Albert Museum (S.1709-1986).
Digital image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 [Unported]).

One of the first productions at the Plough Club was Clifford Bax’s The Sneezing Charm (Royal Court Theatre, 9 June 1918): “an Arabian Nights Fantasy in rhyme” designed by George Sheringham and with music “expressly composed” by Gustav Holst.100 Several of Sheringham’s costume designs survive, including this sketch of the Chief Executioner who was played by the Indian actor, H.B. Bushra.101 “Mr. George Sheringham’s costumes and scenery were quite the up-to-date thing in beauty,” reported the theatre critic Herbert Farjeon, himself a conscientious objector during the First World War. “What our drama needs, above all things, is the quality of delight; and the Plough merits our thanks for endeavouring to supply it.”102

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Gustav Holst, The Perfect Fool, Ballet, Op. 39, performed by Len Vorster and Robert Chamberlain, 10.45 minutes.
Digital courtesy of Naxos.

Gustav Holst composed the incidental music to Clifford Bax’s play The Sneezing Charm, which was performed by the Plough Club on 9 June 1918. He then adapted the score for a ballet titled The Perfect Fool, which was first performed in 1921.103 The ballet music falls into four sections: “Invocation” (Andante), “Dance of the Spirits of Earth” (Moderato–Andante), “Dance of the Spirits of Water” (Allegro), and “Dance of the Spirits of Fire” (Allegro Moderato–Andante). 

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Colour Magazine, 8, no. 5, June 1918: cover design featuring Summer by J.D. Ferguson.
Digital image courtesy of The British Library Board.

Colour was not intended to be a wartime magazine but, when it launched in August 1914, it became one. As an art journal, it stood out for the quality of its colour reproductions and its coverage of contemporary British art, including war artists. Through the appointment of E.O. Hoppé as art editor, it also became a forum for artists who worked with the London little theatres, such as Maxwell Armfield. J.D. Fergusson, and Anne Estelle Rice. It is striking that the magazine was prepared to publish Armfield’s article “Art and Patriotism” (March 1916), which made the case for art as a form of anti-war service—evidence of a dissenting current within the journal, although the editorial line overall was not pacifist.104 This cover image by J.D. Fergusson signals the magazine’s decision to promote him as a leading artist on the British scene.

The Pioneer Players
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The Pioneer Players was founded in 1911 by Edith Craig, who was famous in her own right as an actress, designer, and producer, and by association as the daughter of Ellen Terry and the sister of Edward Gordon Craig. Her aim at the outset was “to produce propaganda plays” on a range of progressive issues—principally women’s suffrage, but also censorship, prostitution, workers’ rights, housing, vegetarianism, and Polish independence.105 Indeed, in its early years, the company was accused of making feminist tracts rather than dramatic art, a criticism that Craig shrugged off by arguing that the suffrage movement was in itself intrinsically dramatic.106

It is something of a puzzle that in 1915 the company began to reinvent itself as an art theatre, experimenting with new techniques of production, staging foreign-language plays in translation, sometimes for the first time, and responding to the challenge of the European avant-garde—symbolism, futurism, expressionism—in ways that were deliberately eclectic; all this alongside plays which continued to explore topical problems such as desertion from the army and accidental bigamy.107 The change began in March 1915 with a triple bill of symbolist plays by European dramatists and a declared intention to “create a dramatic atmosphere by means of colour, form and lighting”.108 Critics made much of the lighting effects: the backdrop to Isi Collin’s play Sisyphus and the Wandering Jew, which showed “the bleak summit of the hill with a gnarled tree outlined against the shifting colours of a sunset sky”; the use of lights and gauzes to simulate the nudity of a dancing girl in Pierre Louys’ The Girl and the Puppet; faces looming out of intense darkness behind “a glowing red space which appeared to pulsate owing to an effect of light” in Nikolai Evreinov’s The Theatre of the Soul.109

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The historian Katharine Cockin has argued persuasively that the Pioneer Players’ shift to art theatre and foreign plays was a gesture of political defiance against the cultural conditions of the war, which the society’s Annual Report described feelingly as a “khaki-clad and khaki-minded world”.110 She points out also that the society was an open church which actively promoted freedom of expression; the apparent inconsistencies in its repertoire, and the range of opinion represented by its membership, manifested deep political commitments.111The present exhibition brings another explanatory context to bear on the question of why the Pioneer Players embraced art theatre in the middle of the war, by situating them in the network of the free-thinking London little theatres. There are multiple connections: Margaret Morris and Eleanor Elder danced in The Theatre of the Soul, while the Margaret Morris Theatre was used for a Pioneer Players’ AGM;112 the Pioneer Players took out a subscription to the Plough Club, and several of its members performed in a Plough Club production of The Sneezing Charm;113 the playwright Torahiko Khori, who staged two plays with the Pioneer Players, also worked with the Choric School;114 and Henderson's Bookshop was the publisher of choice for the Pioneer Players as for other artists and writers involved in the little theatre network.115 By 1920, the Pioneer Players was failing. It was incorporated into the British Drama League—itself an offshoot of the wartime little theatres—and, apart from a single performance in 1925, ceased to operate.116

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Envelope for the sale of NIkolai Evreinov, The Theatre of the Soul, (London: Hendersons', 1915). Collection of The British Library.
Digital image courtesy of The British Library Board.

A production of Nikolai Evreinov’s symbolist play The Theatre of the Soul was scheduled to take place at the Alhambra in November 1915 as part of a royal matinée celebrating Russia’s Day.117 The production was particularly important to the Pioneer Players, signalling as it did their commitment to new and experimental work by foreign playwrights.118 Yet it was cancelled at the last moment for no apparent reason except that it was unsuitable for an Alhambra audience.119 The Pioneer Players objected vociferously but made the most of the scandal by advertising it on the envelope for their edition of the play which was published by the radical bookshop Henderson's.120 They were already known for their resistance to the institutionalised practice of stage censorship.121 The setback at the Alhambra reinforced their reputation for controversial work.

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Pamela Colman Smith, Cover design for the programme of a special matinée at the Shaftsbury Theatre, 3 December 1915. Collection of The British Library.
Digital image courtesy of The British Library Board.

The artist Pamela Colman Smith was closely involved in theatre and a particular friend of Edith Craig and her circle.122 Her illustrations for Ellen Terry’s The Russian Ballet are shown elsewhere in this exhibition. With the Pioneer Players, she designed costumes, illustrated programmes, and sat on the Executive Committee.123 Her cover for this charity matinée programme shows women hard at work, carrying trays of food and plates, piled precariously high. The list of those serving at the event was distinctly aristocratic, yet here they all pitch in. The Pioneer Players used the occasion to restage The Theatre of the Soul—redeeming the recent cancellation at the Alhambra—and to printed a statement of their new direction as an arts theatre.

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George Plank (costume design), E. O. Hoppé (photograph), Far More Merry than Deadly: A New Musical-Comedy Star in “The Merry Death”, recently Produced by the Pioneer Players, The Tatler, no. 772 (12 April 1916): 43. Collection of The British Library.
Digital image courtesy of Illustrated London News Group and The British Library Board.

The American artist George Plank is best known for his iconic cover illustrations for Vogue. He was a friend of Edith Craig and her family and, after his move to Britain in 1914, worked with the Pioneer Players, designing costumes, serving on the Council, and even taking his turn on the stage.124 His design for Cicely Hamilton’s costume as Columbine in Nikolai Evreinov’s A Merry Death (2 April 1916, Savoy Theatre) has much in common with his Vogue covers, as does Hamilton’s pose in this portrait by E.O. Hoppé. Extravagant skirts—“Columbine is arrayed—one might almost say, incarcerated—in a voluminous flounced skirt of the crinoline type,” as The Sketch reported—feature also on the April 1916, August 1916, and June 1917 issues of the magazine.125 There are other connections between Vogue and the London little theatres. Elspeth Champcommunal, the first editor of the British edition which launched in September 1916, was a member of the Margaret Morris Club; and Hoppé, who co-founded the Plough Club, supplied the magazine with photographs, including the frontispiece of the first British issue.126

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George Plank, Cover design for the programme of “Smokes for the Wounded”, Savoy Theatre, 7 April 1916. George Plank Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Digital image courtesy of Yale University.

George Plank’s cover for the programme of Smokes for the Wounded (Savoy Theatre, 7 April 1916) follows the pattern of his designs for Vogue. For this charity event, the Pioneer Players repeated their production of Evreinov’s The Theatre of the Soul.

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Flyer for the Pioneer Players’ performance at the Kingsway Theatre, 13 May 1917, heading designed by Pamela Colman Smith. Collection of The British Library.
Digital image courtesy of Illustrated London News Group and The British Library Board.

Pamela Colman Smith designed the Pioneer Players’ illustrative motif at the top of this flyer, as can be seen by her signature on the right-hand side. The programme for 13 May 1917 was distinctive because it featured two plays which tackled the moral and social problems of the war: Gwen John’s The Luck of War, which imagined a soldier returning home to find his wife remarried; and Sewell Collins’ The Quitter, which examined the experience of an army deserter. As Katharine Cockin shows, both plays are ambivalent in their treatment of these contentious subjects.127

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Ethel Smyth, What if I were Young Again, extract from The Boatswain’s Mate, 1914, 3.20 minutes.
Digital courtesy of Présences Féminines.

Edith Craig was an accomplished musician, and as a director she was on the lookout for like-minded musicians to work with—“must be someone who knows about theatres”, as she noted to herself on the back of a flyer for the Pioneer Players.128 The composer Ethel Smyth was a close friend and collaborator.129 Before the war, they campaigned together for women’s suffrage and, in the 1920s, Craig produced two of Smyth’s operas: The Wreckers (1902–1904) and The Boatswain’s Mate (1914).130 The sample of Smyth’s music given here is taken from this second work, which was first performed in January 1916 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London. Craig’s own production took place at Leeds Arts Theatre, as part of a double-bill with Beatrice Mayor’s play Thirty Minutes in a Street (1926).131

Japanese artists in London
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When W.B. Yeats discovered Japanese Noh theatre in London in summer 1915, it marked a turning point in his practice as a dramatist. This section of the exhibition shows how his experiments in Noh interlinked with London’s little theatres and how those theatres became a home for a diaspora of Japanese modernists. Yeats first saw Noh performed by three cosmopolitan Japanese: the dancer Ito Michio, the painter Kumé Tamijiro and the playwright Khori Torahiko, which inspired him to write his “Celtic Noh” play At the Hawk’s Well (performed 1916).132 Six months later, Ito danced at the Margaret Morris Theatre under the direction of John Rodker of the Choric School.133 It is through the literature on Khori that we discover that 71 Royal Hospital Road, home of the Choric School, was also a base for Japanese expatriate artists.134 During the war, Khori lived there with Hester Sainsbury, the poet and dancer who ran the Choric School, and his partner until his death in 1924. The painter Foujita (Fujita Tsuguji) was also a resident when he spent a year in England in 1916.135 While little is known about his London episode—other than that he painted a mural at an artists’ club in Chelsea—it is documented  that when he moved to Paris in 1913, he was fascinated by the Greek dance revival led by Raymond Duncan and, like Duncan, took to wearing a toga in the city streets.136 It seems likely that he would have been drawn to the Choric School and the Margaret Morris Theatre, where dance was based on the Duncan system.137 Ito and Kumé were regular visitors at 71 Hospital Road, as was Edmund Dulac, who designed the costumes and scenery for At the Hawk’s Well and composed the music.138 The first performance starred Ito as the Hawk, in which role he was photographed by Alvin Langdon Coburn, who joined the Plough Club when it opened in the following year.139 Khori also brought Noh to an English-speaking audience through his play Kanawa the Incantation, which was staged by the Pioneer Players in December 1917.140 Shortly afterwards, Khori was appointed to the society’s Managing Committee, and in 1922, they staged his play The Toils of Yoshimoto.

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These activities should be seen in the context of a wider community of Japanese artists, writers, and performers who gathered in London in the early twentieth century and who worked to bridge the divide between East and West. They included the writer Yone Noguchi, who challenged Yeats to study Noh theatre ten years before the production of At the Hawk’s Well; the poet Komai Gonnosuke, whose book Fuji from Hampstead Heath (1925) described Japan from the vantage-point of London; the artist Yoshio Markino, who became something of an Edwardian celebrity through publications such as The Colour of London (1907) and A Japanese Artist in London (1910); and Matsuyama Chuzo, who exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1916, and who volunteered for the local Red Cross, teaching drawing to injured soldiers.141 In Arthur Ransome’s cultural history of Chelsea, the narrator calls on an old friend—a Japanese artist who has recently moved to London and shares rooms with an English actor whose buffoonery causes them both great amusement.142

To put this in perspective: the number of Japanese immigrants to Britain was small compared with most other groups, and the proportion of artists and performers amongst them even smaller. The 1911 census records about 500 Japanese nationals in the UK. More arrived during the First World War because of the increased trade between Britain and Japan and because of the conflict in Europe.143 Yet when a group of ten Japanese artists exhibited together at the Brook Street Art Gallery in July 1917, they comprised the majority of Japanese artists in London at the time.144 Nonetheless, the Japanese exerted considerable cultural influence in Britain, partly because of the residual attraction of Japonisme, and partly because of the unusual demographic of the Japanese immigrant community, which tended to be wealthy and educated. Their practice was to assimilate into British society, while serving as proud ambassadors for their country.145 The life of a Japanese artist in London was a balancing act between the need to satisfy a Western desire for the Orient, to fit in, and to remain oneself—that is, a Japanese cosmopolitan.146 The Noh artists who collaborated with Yeats and the London little theatres managed just this sort of negotiation in their work and relationships.

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Alvin Langdon Coburn, Michio Ito as the Hawk in “At the Hawk’s Well” by W.B. Yeats, 1916, digital positive from the original gelatin silver negative, 9 x 12 cm. Collection of George Eastman Museum (1976.0154.4806).
Digital image courtesy of George Eastman Museum.

The dancer Ito Michio saw Isadora Duncan dance in Berlin and trained with Émile Jacques-Dalcroze at the Hellerau School of Eurhythmics, Dresden, before moving to London at the outbreak of the First World War. His synthesis of traditional Japanese and modern European dance methods was instantly attractive to British audiences and he became a celebrity in the London dance world.147 His relationship with Yeats was crucial to the poet’s creation of “Irish Noh”, particularly to the first staging of At the Hawk’s Well in April 1916.148 Ito based his choreography on the motion of a hawk in flight. As the photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn recalled: “Yeats and Ito went to the London Zoo to study the postures of the Hawks there, and Ito amazed the visitors by performing a dance for all to admire, especially Yeats”.149 He drew also on the diverse cultural sources that inspired his dance: traditional Noh theatre, modernist Greek dance, and ancient Egyptian murals.150

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W.B. Yeats, At the Hawk's Well, directed by Barry Cassin and Noel MacMahon, 1965, 21.26 minutes.
Digital courtesy of Argo Record Co. Ltd.

At the Hawk’s Well was Yeats’ first experiment in “Irish Noh”—a play which used the conventions of Japanese Noh theatre to recount the legend of Cuchulain, the hero of Irish mythology who features in the stories of the medieval Ulster Cycle. The play was written in 1915–1916, and first performed on 2 April 1916 in Lady Cunard’s drawing room before a small invited audience. Ito Michio designed the choreography, and the scenery consisted of a screen by Edward Gordon Craig.151

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Edmund Dulac, music for W.B. Yeats, At the Hawk's Well, composed 1916, published in W.B. Yeats, Four Plays for Dancers (London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd, 1921), sound recording by Sonya Cullingford, 2019.
Digital courtesy of Sonya Cullingford.

As scenographer and composer, Edmund Dulac worked closely with Yeats through the making of At the Hawk’s Well.152 His music “was in itself an exposition of method”, Yeats explained, “for it was written after a number of rehearsals and for instruments that have great pictorial effect”—flute, harp, drum, and gong in different combinations, with voice singing or speaking through the music.153 The effect was to reinforce the “idea of great simplicity of execution underlying the whole spirit of the performance” and “to emphasise the spoken word”.154 In some versions of the working draft, Yeats asked that the movements of the Old Man be marked by drum taps, so that he would appear to move like a marionette;155 a nod, perhaps, to Edward Gordon Craig and his idea that sound and movement should work together in a total effect of puppet theatre.

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Torahiko Khori, Kanawa: The Incantation . A Play for Marionettes, (London: Gowans & Gray, Ltd: Boston, MA: LeRoy Phillips, 1918), front cover.
Digital image courtesy of Private Collection.

Khori first wrote Kanawa: The Incantation in Japanese as a modern version of the Noh play Kanawa, fused with the language and preoccupations of the European fin de siècle.156 He then translated it into English with Sainsbury’s help. In the prologue, which he recited himself at the play’s first performance in 1917, he reflected on the significance of the puppet in this “play for marionettes”, as he called it on the title page. The cultures of Europe and Japan are alien to one another, he reminded his audience, so much so that foreigners may sometimes “remind you of poor marionettes that dance and scream before you”. He urged compassion towards his own “beloved marionettes”, and for a moment of kinship between viewers and performers: “that the strings which handle their fortunes may catch and draw the marionettes that are in you too, that for a while we may all complain their woes and loves as if they were our own, let them be never so strange.”157 Afterwards, he told Craig how proud he was of this “sincere effort at the unaffected interpretation of Japanese rhythm”, although he acknowledged that it may not have pleased the “dilettanti orient-mongers” in the audience.158

The script of Kanawa: The Incantation, with Khori’s prologue and details of the first production, were published in 1918 in the fragile little booklet shown here. The paper cover is encased in a stiffer, semi-transparent Japanese paper on which is printed this striking design (artist unknown) of a demon mask against a fiercely contrasting black and red abstract pattern.

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Sato Takezou, Portrait of Gonneske Komai, reproduced in Colour Magazine, Vols 8–9, August 1918: 24. Collection of The British Library.
Digital image courtesy of The British Library Board.

Images reproduced in Colour were sometimes accompanied by an editorial statement explaining their significance. The caption for Sato Takezou’s portrait of the writer Komai Gonnosuke makes explicit the universalising tendencies of Japonisme at this time. “This picture shows in a striking way the affinity there is between Eastern and Western art the moment you get below the imitative realism which often obscures the latter,” it states. “It is very ‘Japanese’, but leaving out the background, also very like Holbein.”159 Colour began to publish the work of Japanese artists and writers in 1916. They used the journal to publicise their work and to reflect on—and shape—their Japaneseness; hence Yone Noguchi’s article on “The Colour of London Seen by a Japanese Poet”, (April 1916), and Komai himself on “Samurai Spirit of Japan” (September 1917).

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Advertisement for the Formosa Oolong Tea-Rooms, The Tatler, no. 783, 28 June 1916: 33. Collection of The British Library.
Digital image courtesy of Illustrated London News Group and The British Library Board.

There were three main haunts for Japanese artists in London during the First World War: the Café Royal on Regent Street, 71 Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea, and the Formosa Oolong Tea-Rooms at 36 Piccadilly.160 The Tea-Rooms opened in 1912 under Japanese management, and were equally popular with servicemen and their girls. “The Woman About Town” column in The Sketch called it a “rendezvous of khaki, blue, and petticoats—oh, we still wear them, though they are under orders to depart again.”161 That clientele is addressed in this illustrated advertisement in Tatler, one of many which appeared regularly in the British press. It is noticeable that these featured Western customers with just an occasional glimpse of a waitress in a kimono.

Issue 11 / London's Little Theatres