Walter Greenwood’s Plays (1934 – 1971)

This is a complete list of Greenwood’s performed and published plays, together with some concise further information, especially for the less well-known plays, including extracts from reviews and with cover or performance images added wherever possible (all images scanned from copies of material in the author’s collection).

Love on the Dole (Ronald Gow & Walter Greenwood).

First performed at the Rushholme Theatre, Manchester, February 1934; first ‘provincial tour’, May 1934; Garrick Theatre, London, January 1935, transferred to Wintergarden Theatre, London, January 1936; first performed in the USA at the Shubert Theatre, New York, February 1936.

Published by Samuel French (French’s Acting Edition, no,184), London, 1934 (copyright renewed 1936, 1938).

Published by Samuel French (French’s Standard Library Edition), New York, 1934 (copyright renewed 1936).

Published by Jonathan Cape, London, 1935.

Published as Rêves Sans Provision (‘ Dreams without Means’ perhaps – French translation by Charlotte Neveu) in La Petite Illustration (No.827 – Théatre No. 418), 26 Juin 1937. This version was first performed at La Comedié des Champs-Élysées. Paris, March 1937.

Published as Hereford Plays edition, edited and with an Introduction by Ray Speakman (Heinemann Educational Books Ltd), London, 1986.

Adapted from Greenwood’s novel Love on the Dole (Jonathan Cape, 1933).

[Sources: the published editions]

Below is the Jonathan Cape front dust-wrapper. The ‘New Play Series’ was clearly aimed at readers interested in socially-conscious drama and shows that Cape saw Gow and Greenwood’s play as being part of a body of international work addressing issues of social justice. Though the front dust-wrapper used the Cape brand to catch the reader’s eye, rather than any pictorial matter, the rear dust-wrapper packed in a remarkable amount of biographical information and textual testimony about the autobiographical experience underpinning Greenwood’s writing, and about the reception of the novel. It also found room for a small version of part of the novel’s dust-wrapper design (though with the red circle replaced with a blue one).

The French translation was published after performance in a periodical which printed the complete texts of important contemporary works. It was published as a play by Ronald Gow ‘d’apres Le Roman De Walter Greenwood’, which I do not think quite captures the degree of collaboration on the play (p.1). Charlotte Neveu changed a few character names presumably to avoid English names difficult to say or with potential other meanings. thus Larry Meath becomes ‘Larry Smeath’, Sally Hardcastle becomes ‘Ketty Hardcastle’, and Harry Hardcastle becomes ‘Jimmy Hardcastle’. The cast list also introduces a non-speaking character not found in the English version(s) of the play – ‘le Jouer d’ukulele’ – however there is no further reference in the French text of the play to what business the character added – presumably some onstage music during a crowd scene? Could it possibly be a passing reference to George Formby’s association with Greenwood?

There is a substantial (circa 2000 word) after-word to the play by Robert Beauplan which gives the history of Love on the Dole so far, and explains that Paris audiences responded sympathetically but in quite diverse ways – some seeing the play as of ‘the extreme left’, others seeing it more as an emotional piece, and others as a work of very exact realism. Beauplan then helpfully provides extracts of reviews from some French thirteen papers and periodicals, all of which seem positive in their views. Beauplan (1882-1951) was the son of a well-known opera singer, Émilie Ambre, and wrote regularly for La Petite Illustration, but despite his work on contemporary literature in thirties Paris, he became a propagandist for the Vichy regime during the War and was consequently given a prison-sentence afterwards (see: Émilie Ambre – Wikipedia ).
Now out of print, this was a very useful edition, containing not only a version of the Cape text slightly revised with the advice of Ronald Gow himself, but also an acute and informative introduction, notes on the text, and some helpful suggestions for teaching the play in the classroom, all the additional material being written by the educationalist Ray Speakman.

The Pan Plays of the Thirties Volume 1, which included Love on the Dole, used a still from the film to represent the play, together with a set of generic images intended to represent the thirties – though ironically none of these seems to refer to the Depression or unemployment! As it happens the publishers chose more or less the same still as I chose for the cover of my book.

Review extract. There were hundreds of reviews of Love on the Dole in its initial productions between 1935 and 1939. This one gives a good sense of the seriousness and enthusiasm with which it was almost universally received.

[The Scotsman, 31/1/1935, p.10]

FROM OUR LONDON DRAMATIC CRITIC. In Love on the Dole, which was presented this evening at the Garrick Theatre, the whole tragedy of unemployment is epitomised. The action of the play takes place in an industrial area – presumably near Manchester – and we see the disintegrating effect of unemployment and poverty upon the Hardcastle family, who try to keep respectable against fearful odds . The girl of- the family, Sally, is engaged to a young Socialist who is killed in a clash with the police when he is trying to prevent the development of trouble. Deprived of her sweetheart and seeing nothing before her but grinding poverty, Sally sells herself  to the local bookmaker. It is a finely-written play, with many almost unbearably poignant moments, and it holds the sympathy and interest of the audience from first to last. The acting of every member of the cast is supremely good, and one mentions only the names of Miss Wendy Hiller, Miss Cathleen Nesbitt, Mr Ballard Berkeley, Mr Julien Mitchell, and Miss Beatrice Varley, because they have most to do.


Give Us This Day, Manchester Repertory Theatre, March 1936.

Adapted from Greenwood’s novel his Worship the Mayor (Jonathan Cape, 1934).

[Source: review, the Stage, 26/3/1936, p.10]

Extract from the Stage review. This is anonymous, as was then often the case, but certainly carefully written and thoughtful. The review points to some quite profound adaptation decisions which switch the main focus of the novel on Hargreaves towards the working-class and poor Shuttleworth family. The review is critical of a few aspects of the play and though it thinks it effective enough, concludes that Love on the Dole was better as a play).

In adapting Love on the Dole Mr Greenwood had the collaboration of Ronald Gow. This time he has worked alone. The new play is adapted from Mr. Greenwood’s second novel, His Worship the Mayor, but in stage form the balance of interest has been readjusted. Instead of pivoting on the progress of an insignificant draper. Hargraves, to high civic honours, it centres, as suggested by its title, upon the sordid surroundings and struggles against poverty of the Shuttleworth family. In a prologue Mrs. Shuttleworth, the drudge who cleans Hargrave’s shop for 3s. 6d. a week, is shown pleading vainly for a little on account of her wages to satisfy the hunger of her children at home. Failing in this, she is tempted into stealing and pawning a shawl from the shop. The proceeds enable her to feed her offspring. But relief is only temporary. The tragedy of poverty overshadows the Shuttleworth home. Joe, the father, has long been unemployed, and is eating his heart out for work. His son Jack wants to marry pretty Meg Teagle, but is held back by the necessity of contributing to his parents’ keep. Both sides feel the position keenly, but Meg stands out for waiting till things become more favourable. Then the mother is arrested for her petty theft and sent to jail. During her absence the family is helped materially by a good- hearted neighbour, Judy Evans, who, in fact, is one of the most prominent figures in the play. When Mrs. Shuttleworth returns home to an affectionate welcome, another blow falls. The landlord threatens ejection for unpaid rent. Honest Joe is driven to the expedient of applying to the Public Assistance Committee, the staging of which affords the author an opportunity of real drama. Subsequently Jack and Meg marry; the mother goes into a one-room dwelling in a tenement, and the father to what was formerly known as the workhouse. The faces of the poor are still ground by relentless landlords, sweating employers, officious officials, and not least by Mrs. Nattle, an objectionable type of woman, who knows all sorts of dubious methods for extracting money from her hard-pressed neighbours. Eventually the brooding father is driven insane, and Jack, despite the pressure of circumstances, such as an approaching baby and straitened finances, takes back his long-suffering mother to live with him and Meg. Give Us This Day concentrates on the same theme as its predecessor, but is less skilfully constructed and more diffuse in its treatment . . . Dramatic high spots are the pathetic return of Miss Shuttleworth from prison (somewhat marred by banal music) and the highly realistic means test scene, which strikes a compelling note of drama. The rest consists chiefly of incidents stressing in conventional if highly coloured language, oft repeated, the fight for life among the extreme poor of cities like Salford.


The Practised Hand (one act), Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester, July 1935.

Adapted from Greenwood’s short story ‘The Practised Hand’ in The Cleft Stick (Selwyn & Blount, 1937).

For an outline of the story see:

[Source: review, the Stage, 4/7/1935, p.7]

Review Extract.

From the Stage review, and probably written by the same author as the above review of Give Us This Day. The review regards ‘the playlet’, which has just three parts in it (Mrs Nattle, Mrs Dorbell, and Mrs Haddock) as well-written, performed and produced, but doubts such a grim story of hastening a man’s death for financial gain will be found acceptable to the theatre-going public. The review draws attention to the important contribution of the lighting and of Reginald Bach as producer.

The scene of the playlet is Mrs. Doorbell’s kitchen in Hanky Park, the sordid district made familiar by Mr. Greenwood in his Love on the Dole. Indeed, the episode is just one more slice of that grim realism of the Salford slums which some persons find incredible, but which the author, from personal experience, knows to be existent. Mrs. Doorbell has a lodger who, though long sick, refuses to die to enable his landlady to draw his insurance money and further indulge her gin-drinking propensities. To her comes Mrs. Nattle to tell of the miraculous powers of Mrs. Haddock in inducing obstinate invalids to depart this world. Her methods are said to be perfectly safe, and she agrees, for ten shillings, to make an end of the lodger. It is a simple process. With his head on a pillow a sick man may breathe for a long time. Remove the pillow, let the head hang over the side, and the enhanced difficulty of breathing in that position soon brings matters to the desired climax. Mrs. Haddock removes the pillow, the lodger dies, and, after Mrs. Nattle has surreptitiously annexed some of the dead man’s clothing, the the hags depart for realms where bliss is bought by the bottle. The piece is a composite of comedy and tragedy. While Mrs. Doorbell’s maudlin ways and Mrs. Nattle’s mean-spirited subtletv induce some laughs, the underlying current of stark horror gives something of a Grand Guignol touch to the proceedings. Convincingly played, and produced with that expert attention to detail for which Reginald Bach is noted, the piece provides another example of Mr. Greenwood’s skill in portraying human nature in the depths. How far it will be generally acceptable remains to be seen, but it certainly lacks nothing in presentation. The three artists score in their respective roles and skill is exhibited in the lighting of the scene, an important item in so drab an environment. It was Mr. Bach who produced Love on the Dole in town. He is again a prime factor in the latest Greenwood play.


My Son’s My Son (‘An unrevised play by D.H. Lawrence completed by Walter Greenwood’ – programme p.5), The Playhouse, London, May 1936.

Playhouse Programme for Greenwood’s ‘completion’ of Lawrence’s play. A completed version by Lawrence was in fact later discovered in a different manuscript.

[Sources: programme; reviews]

Review Extract (the Stage, 28/5/1936, p. 10). This reviewer felt that it was very easy to differentiate Lawrence’s work from Greenwood’s, with the one characterised by a grim and brutal realism, the other by an urge to provide a more acceptable marriage and a happy reconciliation. The Times review (27/5/1936, p.14) took a very similar view of a mismatch between the Lawrence and Greenwood parts of the play. Not all reviews saw it this way, and I have put second below a review which enjoyed the play and says the audience did too, when it came to Portsmouth in Sybil Thorndyke’s hands in October 1936 (Portsmouth Evening News, 7/10/1936, p.2).

THE PLAYHOUSE . . . Leon M. Lion presented here an unrevised play, in three acts by the late D. H. Lawrence, completed by Walter Greenwood, and entitled: My Son’s My Son . . . D. H. Lawrence was a writer of power and originality, and only a very courageous man would dare to take up an incomplete work by him and finish it off. The impression at the Playhouse on Tuesday evening was that the play’s first two acts had been written by D. H. Lawrence and the third by Mr Greenwood. The difference between them was very marked. The action is laid in a mining village in the north of England and the two leading characters are the miner, Luther Gascoigne, and his young wife. Their relationship is for the most part cat-and-dog and when the wife hears that another woman is about to bear a child of which Luther is the father, mutual recrimination develops into fisticuffs, and the wretched pair fight on the floor. All this impressed us as eminently Lawrencian. Born in a mining community D. H. Lawrence knew its good and its evil; and no doubt he had seen much of the elemental sort of life here described. The spectacle was not pretty, D. H. Lawrence was never out for prettiness– but in its brutal fashion it rang true. In the third act we learn that the wife has left her home on a visit to Manchester, taking her little property of £100 or so with her, and, of course, we assume the worst. Presently, however, she returns, beaming with goodness and gentleness. Among other things she has bought a little present for Luther and the home – three prints for which she has paid £25 apiece. Not unnaturally Luther, in a frantic rage, begins to tear them up and fling them into the fire, after which he flings himself out of the house. Presently he is brought back with an ugly wound in the head, and the wife’s tenderness becomes more demonstrative than ever. She bathes and binds his laceration; she falls on her knees before him and pours forth her love. He, too, now becomes as gentle as a lamb, and upon this metamorphosis the curtain finally falls. We could only wonder what D. H. Lawrence himself would have said upon seeing his stark realism made to wind up with such an outburst of sentimentality and conventionality. On the whole, we could not but feel as we came away that it would have been better to leave Lawrence’s work as he left it, and, if a production had been felt to be desirable, to produce it as an unfinished play.

However, we saw much that was interesting on Tuesday evening, and we were certainly favoured with as vivid a display of acting as playgoer could desire. Gyles Isham and Sara Erskine made the characters of the young husband and wife seem actually to live before us; Louise Hampton was grimness itself as the young man’s mother; while Valentine Dyall as Luther’s more light-hearted brother, and Hilda Davies as the mother of the wronged village maiden brought further authentic human touches into the picture. Tastes differ, and it is quite likely that many playgoers will thoroughly enjoy the happy ending provided. In any case, the greater part of the play, notwithstanding its grimness, is richly worth seeing, while the whole of the action is quite masterly.

Review from Portsmouth Evening News.

Dame Sybil Thorndike and her fine company scored distinct success at the King’s Theatre last night when they appeared in My Son’s My Son, a comedy they are alternating with Fumed Oak, Hands Across the Sea and Village Wooing, during their week’s visit. Written by D. H. Lawrence, and Walter Greenwood, this is an excellent story of life in a typical mining village in the industrial north, and it affords splendid opportunity for character portrayal which few comedies provide. The cast is not a big one; indeed, there are only half a dozen or so characters, but there was some really superb acting, and Dame Sybil Thorndike excelled with her magnificent study of Mrs. Gascoigne, a miner’s widow with two sons, Luther and Joe, splendidly portrayed by Nicholas Phipps and Christopher Casson, and a daughter-in-law admirably played by Ann Casson. Nora Nicholson, too, made a hit as Mrs. Purdy, neighbour, whose daughter is the source of much worry; and Gordon Crier, as a cabman, and Owen Griffith, as a miner, filled their roles well. My Son’s My Son, in addition to being well acted, was also well-staged and dressed, and that it was thoroughly enjoyed was shown by the enthusiastic applause that was accorded the artists. The comedy will be repeated to-night and on Friday, and at to-morrow’s matinee; and the other comedies will be played to-morrow and Saturday evenings.


Only Mugs Work, Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, April 1939.

Adapted from Greenwood’s novel, Only Mugs Work (Hutchinson, 1938).

[Source: notice, Manchester Evening News, 8/4/1939, p.12]

Review from the Era, signed C.T.P (13/4/1939, p.8). This is not a very favourable review – C.T.P. regards the thriller as not very thrilling and also as a ’stale imitation’ of Edgar Wallace’s hard-boiled work in the thriller genre. He finds only the character played By Pearl Alice Osgood, then married to Greenwood, at all engaging. The Stage review (13/4/1939, p.11) responded in a very similar vein.

Walter Greenwood, by way of a change, has exploited Soho for his gangster drama, which is materially a stale imitation of Edgar Wallace in the American technique. Over sixty persons are contained in the setting of a feud between the Gorelli gang and that of the ‘Conman’, who operates under false pretences. Even a jazz band is included. In the course of the action, murder and third-degree methods are merely incidental. There is time, however, to take a breath. Some details of the development, threatening a horrible extinction of the Conman and his ‘dame’ have a Scotland Yard foundation, revealing the map-room’s precise radio location of Gorelli in his final effort to escape from the country after lurid and treacherous villainies. Essentially, the theme is non-heroic, and the whole thing is almost incredible as taking place in London. Pearl Osgood, the film actress, the only one who seems to claim sympathetic appeal, as a cabaret artiste involved in both sides but in love on only one. There are light character sketches occasionally, and it is possible to be amused by various supporting members of the company. if not exactly thrilled by the plot.


The Cure for Love: a Lancashire Comedy in Three Acts, first performed as The Rod of Iron, Oldham repertory Theatre, January 1945, then advertised as Sergeants’ Mess in the Stage, 8th March, 1945, p.6 (Parkwood Productions sought ‘Big Theatres – Once or Twice Nightly’) and then performed as The Cure for Love at the Westminster Theatre, London, July 1945.

Published by Samuel French (French’s Acting Edition No.2102), 1947.

This cover shows something of the play’s situation in that it is about a returning soldier towards the end of the War who has to choose between two women, but does not capture the dilemma that he finds it difficult to detach himself from his least favourite Janey Jenkins, and attach himself to his now preferred alternative, Milly Southern, In fact, the drawing misrepresents Sergeant Jack Hardacre as highly sure of himself, when, despite being an Eighth Army hero, he is very uncertain of himself back at home. However, the illustration is striking in its line-drawing and red/black colour blocks, and is the work of the interesting humorous illustrator Joyce Dennys – see

Below is a much later illustration, drawn for the Bolton Octagon’s 1981 production of The Cure for Love. I think it does a good job of picturing some of the play’s themes: Sergeant Jack Hardacre returns home on leave to a popular reception in Salford, bearing his kit-bag and presents from overseas. However, that giant engagement ring which for the moment he seems unaware of may well trip him up. Sadly the programme does not credit the artist. Image scanned from copy of the programme in the author’s collection of Greenwoodiana.

[Sources: published edition and The Stage; Octagon Bolton Theatre programme for production of The Cure for Love, staged 10/2/1981 to 7/3/1981]

Review Extracts. A brief notice in the Manchester Evening News thought this new play a great Lancashire success, but also predicted a success in the West End, and anywhere else where people had a proper sense of humour. Some London notices and reviews did show some willingness to enjoy the ‘northern’ comedy, but were sometimes lukewarm about the play.

Lancashire Notice (Manchester Evening News, 12/6/1945, p.4).

OPERA HOUSE. THANKS to Lancashire’s native humour and Walter Greenwood’s facile pen, The Cure for Love is a great success. It turned the Opera House into a cauldron of laughter last night, and it is set to repeat the same performance wherever it may travel. Will it ‘go’ in the West End? Will this Lancashire hotpot commend itself to polyglot London? Of course it will. And anywhere else where human warmth and honest, down-to-earth comedy are appreciated.

London Notice (Weekly Dispatch, 15/7/1945, p.2).

Not Enough Meat . . . Actor-manager Robert Donat presents himself in Walter (‘Love on the Dole’) Greenwood’s new Lancashire comedy about a Desert Rat on leave in his hometown of Salford. He comes back to an undemonstrative but affectionate mother (Marjorie Rhodes), a quarrelsome fiancée (Joan White), and a smart little billetee from the south (Renee Asherson). How the taciturn soldier copes with the three females is pleasant enough to see – plenty of character, but very little plot . . . like a hot-pot with too much gravy and not enough meat. From the excellent cast I’d like to single out Charles Victor, as the easy-going publican, for special praise. [Charles Victor also played this part in Donat and Greenwood’s film version of this play (director, Robert Donat, London Films, 1949) – see Victor’s Wikipedia entry for a list of the large number of films he made appearances in, though it does not say much about his theatre career: Charles Victor – Wikipedia

There was also a revival of The Cure for Love in the previous year, 1980. The poster sold the play mainly on its star cast, many of whom were TV names at this time. It is pleasing though to see Dora Bryan again appearing in the play after her 1949 film role. I think she must have played Jack’s mother Sarah Hardcastle this time. Though the names and photographs of the stars dominate the poster, there are are other elements of the design which evoke not so much this play as its Salford setting. Thus there is the industrial skyline with mill chimneys and a pit winding stock. I take it the brick building is a terrace, and since there is nothing specific about a broken window in the play, that is presumably a short-hand indication of the apparently still depressed North. Poster scanned from copy in the author’s collection.

Below is the cast-list from the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre programme for this production, and below that a paragraph from the facing page suggesting how much trouble this production went to to give the interior of the Flying Shuttle pub the correct period look.


So Brief the Spring, Oldham Repertory Theatre, October 1945.

Later adapted by Greenwood into his novel So Brief the Spring (Hutchinson, 1952).

[Source: Manchester Evening News, 25/9/1945, p.8].

Review from the Stage (4/10/1945, p. 10). This makes clear the play’s interest in some of the major changes to British society brought about by post-war change, though thinks these interests may crowd out some of the potential scope for comedy. It also sees Robert Newton in the role of Randy Jollifer as giving a moving and subtle performance.

At the Oldham Repertory on Monday was presented a new play by Walter Greenwood entitled So Brief the Spring. Here Walter Greenwood has left the cobblestones of Lancashire for the sands of Cornwall. where he now lives. He thus contrives to secure a high wide and handsome canvas for the salty Greenwood characterisation hitherto found on the drab hearths of Love on the Dole and The Cure for Love, which also had their premieres in Oldham. So Brief the Spring is more attractive to look at, but not so fluent in story, though it produces in Randy Jollifer the strongest character Greenwood has yet created for the stage. Randy is a sailor home from war at sea to his native village. Greenwood piquantly describes the impact on the older generation of post-war events of youth demobilised, of the atom bomb, and of the Labour Government. Greenwood makes sparks fly from these hot irons of social significance; but he has too many irons in the fire to give the play sufficient room for comedy. Not even Douglas Emery’s ingenuity in production can supply the movement which, can only come from cutting. Yet the play has strength in Randy Jollifer. written for Robert Newton and played by him brilliantly on one of his rare returns to stage work in the last ten years. Mr. Newton illuminates the philosophical depths of Randy, who moves through the play a serene and gentle giant. Next to his heart during the war he carried not one photo of any of the girls he loved, but a chart of a hidden bay in a South Sea island, to which he eventually sails alone. There is never much likelihood that Jennifer (Dora Bryan) or Susan (Joan Sharp) will deflect him from his course. though Miss Bryan and Miss Sharp play the siren with charming grace. There is good work by Shelagh Wilcocks and Maurice Hansard; but the play is Mr. Newton’s. He is not merely a he-man but gives Randy a spiritual force and poetry which make a fascinating part for actor and audience.


Too Clever for Love, Morecambe Repertory Theatre, 1952 (first performed as Never a Dull Moment at the Oldham Repertory Theatre).

Published by Samuel French (French’s Acting edition, no.59), 1952.

As this cover image suggests, the play draws on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have always felt this play about post-war skilled workers (perhaps mechanics rather than ‘mechanicals’), amateur drama, and the complexities of love, had a promising idea, but does not quite develop it sufficiently.

[Source: published edition]

Review Extract.

(The Stage, 11/1/1951, p. 10)


On January 8 Frank H. Fortescue’s Players presented at St. George’s Theatre, Kendal a comedy by Waller Greenwood . . . A typical Lancashire comedy, this play completes the hat-trick for this famous playwright, whose Love on the Dole and The Cure for Love still hold sway. With one exception all the characters are of Lancashire birth, and the play is rich in comic situations, arising from the squabbles of an ordinary and somewhat uneducated northern working-class family. Its appeal is in its topical themes, and the many asides on present-day national and political life are as amusing as they are telling. The hidden truth of some of the lines was readily appreciated by the audience, who took them up with obvious relish. The second act, in the local, was one of the highlights, but there appeared to be need for greater pace or some judicious pruning. Trevor Williams gave the outstanding individual performance as the son who triumphed over adversity. He carried through a most exacting role with real success. Eunice Mann, as the typical bar-cleaner who scrounged the odd shilling wherever she could for her night-cap, had a grand part, and to her the author (who was in the audience on the first night) had given many excellent lines and quips. A fine comedy sense, without any over acting. was shown by Antony Barrett, in the part of a spiv who was reformed by love, while Jennifer Muir was pleasing as the elder daughter of a somewhat mixed family. None of the cast, however, mastered the difficulties of the Lancashire dialect, a fact which was recognised by the audience all the more, seeing they live within a few miles of the boundary of the County Palatine, but there is a future for the play, with every member hand-picked. No one expects any rep. to have a team able to conquer an accent which keeps northern-born Englishmen guessing at times.


Saturday Night at the Crown, Morecambe Repertory Theatre, June 1954; revised version first performed at the Oldham Repertory Theatre, May 1956; produced at the Garrick, London, September 1957.

A Greenwood Play back at the Garrick twenty-two years after Love on the Dole. In the illustration the landlord of the Crown serves draft laughter.

Published by Samuel French French’s Acting Edition No, 349), 1958.

Later adapted into Greenwood’s novel, Saturday Night at the Crown (Hutchinson, 1959).

See some further discussion at:

Review extracts. The Stage review approved of the play and of the performance – seeing it as very much Thora Hird’s show. The cast list records that Greenwood himself directed this production. The West London Observer was less enthusiastic about the play, but equally keen on Thora Hird’s part and performance.

(The Stage, 9/8/1956, p.10)

A NEW production of Walter Greenwood’s Saturday Night at The Crown was presented at the Bradford Alhambra on Monday with considerable success. The action of the play takes place in the bar parlour of the Crown during one evening. There are assembled some of the mourners at a recent funeral and some of those who should have been mourners but were not invited. One of these is Ada Thorpe, who was next-door neighbour of the deceased for over 10 years and had actually sewn a piece of black crepe to her coat in readiness to attend. It is Ada’s waspish tongue which is responsible for the unfolding of the slight story. She not only criticises the in-laws of the deceased, but also other people, both present and absent, while her husband sits there silently drinking and never uttering a word until the final curtain Her biting remarks are a sheer joy, while there are times when her actions speak louder than words. There is a little romance woven into the story, and also a youngish widow, trying to force her attentions on to the manager of The Crown It is all very amusing and a personal triumph for Thora Hird, in the part of Ada Thorpe. She is well supported by Bernard Fox as the self-satisfied manager, Ruth Holden as the attractive barmaid, Mollie Sugden as the wealthy widow, Dora Hardy, the stuck- up in-law, and particularly by Richard Dare as Ada’s husband. From Bradford the play moves to the Grand, Blackpool, for a season of 10 weeks.

(The West London Observer, 20/9/1957, p.4)

Thora Hird’s brilliant success in Saturday Night at the Crown.

There may be many defects about Saturdav Night at the Crown at the Garrick Theatre, but most will agree it has given Thora Hird her best acting assignment so far. As the garrulous wife who is never at a loss for a word, she scores an amazing success which recalls a similar performance, perhaps a couple of years ago, of Peggy Mount who rose to stardom overnight in a similar role in Sailor Beware (It is still running at the Aldwych). Thora Hird spends all of Saturday night in the bar at the Crown and I don’t think she stops talking except to take an occasional breath until closing time. And what a character she is! There’s no doubt that she is the life and soul of the saloon bar, knows everything about everybody, and has something to say about everybody in contrast to her silent husband who sits throughout without saying a word. The comedy is held together by the flimsiest of threads, and it doesn’t seem to matter as long as Thora Hird is there to entertain, and this she does in a way you will never forget. Those who enjoy a night at the ‘local’ are sure to enjoy Saturday Night at the Crown.

[Source: published edition; edition of the novel]


Happy Days, Coliseum, Oldham, November, 1958; Grand Theatre, Blackpool, June 1959.

It is notable that Walter Greenwood as author does NOT appear on the front cover of the programme – the play is being sold rather as a product of the Blackpool producers George and Alfred Black. The illustration shows photos/ drawings of Thora Hird as Mrs Maggie McTaggart and of Peter Sinclair as Mr MacTaggart. The drawing suggests that Mrs M’s domestic life (or labour?) is disrupted by Mr M’s bagpipe playing.

The play is about a couple celebrating their silver wedding anniversary with friends at Blackpool. I have always assumed complications arise. The central role was designed for Thora Hird by Greenwood. As the programme shows, the six characters in the play were two couples, the McTaggarts and the Blackburns, and two other female characters. The play starts with a scene in the McTaggart’s home in Manchester, and also ends there. In between are four scenes in the gardens of their Blackpool boarding-house, and one in the McTaggart’s bedroom there. Peter Sinclair (1900-1994) was born in Scotland and often cast in roles drawing on his Scottish identity. The future Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix also featured in Greenwood’s play. George Black (junior) and his brother Alfred were members of a highly successful theatrical and entertainment production dynasty (see their father’s Wikipedia entry for a sense of the family’s influence:

[Source: programme, and notice, Birmingham Daily Post, 19/6/1959, p. 9].

Review Extracts. In fact, I have not so far found a substantial review, but these brief notices give us some information about the play.

Preview in the Stage (4/12/1958).

The new Walter Greenwood play Happy Days, seen at the Oldham Coliseum recently, with Thora Hird in the lead, has been acquired by George and Alfred Black. It is understood that the play, which concerns a silver wedding holiday in Blackpool, and features a boarding- house exterior scene, will be presented in Blackpool next season.

Notice in the Stage (10/9/1959, p.7).

The phenomenal success of Walter Greenwood’s Happy Days – the Thora Hird summer season play at the Grand has influenced the Blacks to extend the run of a week of once-nightly into the non-season period for the benefit of residents.


Fun and Games, Victoria Theatre, Salford, February 1963 (later performed as This is your Wife, Bradford Alhambra, August 1964).

Set among the male membership of a northern working-men’s club, who are (somewhat unexpectedly) planning an outing to Italy – but their wives are not happy about them going without them (hints about content from ‘Clubs are Trumps’, the Stage, 24/1/1963, p. 4).

[Source: the Stage, review, 7/2/1963, p. 4].

This review gives a good sense of the contents and plot of the play, contextualising it in the northern institution of the working men’s club, but also suggesting that this male social space is (and should be?) challenged in the nineteen-sixties by women’s (even ‘feminist’s’) demands for equal participation in this place of leisure, pleasure and sociability.


The workingmen’s clubs of Lancashire and the North were for long regarded as a retreat for menfolk from the cares of home life. But nowadays, clubmen will no doubt sadly declare, the women have taken over in this field, as in so many others. And in the club of Walter Greenwood’s imagining, in Fun and Games at the Victoria, Salford, the result is, well, fun and games. The battle breaks out in real earnest when the men plan a three-day stag-party outing to Rome, including a football match and cabaret. This is more than the feminists can stand, and they decide to go along with the men. Countermove by the men is a refusal to meet the cost, but this breaks down in the face of the Mayor’s pontifical ruling that a man is responsible for his wife’s debts.


All right then, the men declare, we shall not go on the trip, O.K., say the women, we’ll go on our own. This, of course, is too much for the clubmen and the trip is on, for men and women. The crowning blow to male pride comes with the news that lottery tickets bought on the trip by the leader of the monstrous regiment turns out a winner. This is an entertaining piece of Lancashire homespun with tangy dialect to match, and there is an abundance of good fun as feminine wit matches that of the men and wins. It is given a quick moving performance by the resident players, with an outstanding performance by Prunella Sanger as Amy Holroyd, who puts the men in their places. Vincent Worth makes a cautious steward: there is a highly amusing character study by Freddie Lees; and Peter Wells. Andrew Carr and Geoffrey Brightman provide authentic local colour.


There Was A Time, first performed at Dundee Repertory Theatre, October 1967, then as Hanky Park, Mermaid Theatre, London, April, 1971.

Adapted from Greenwood’s memoir, There Was A Time (Jonathan Cape, 1967).

[Source: programme from the Mermaid Theatre production;, scanned from copy in the author’s Greenwoodiana collection].

Review extract from the Stage (26/10/1967, p. 14). This review suggests that this Dundee production used a rather different kind of theatre from anything seen in Greenwood’s previous and consistently realist plays, drawing on music and also on Brechtian techniques (which is not to say that it was necessarily Brechtian theatre), such as onstage narration, and the use of projection.

Days of Horror.

Dundee Repertory Company presented There Was a Time, a new play of Walter Greenwood’s adapted from his autobiographical novel, on Monday night. The company bring vibrantly to life more than eighty people, quick-changing in and out of characters, to present the giant back-cloth to Mr. Greenwood’s boyhood in Salford. The period covered, 1910-33, shows the ‘good old days’, the days of unbelievable poverty, when women pawned clothes, even bedding, to get money for food, and then, often as not, were met with ‘sold out’ signs in the food shops. The atmosphere of the times is skilfully evoked by musical interpolations, old music hall tunes of the ’30s, with wry words. From the opening, an eerie turning down the lamps, to the final scene, the play immerses the audience in the atmosphere of the dole, labour disputes, the First World War, the grim workhouse, the Salford of clogs and mufflers, and shawled women. There Was a Time is more than a play, it is a living documentary of a time. The production uses documentary techniques, a screen flashing headlines, and photographs of contemporary public figures, and two commentators, giving outlines of current events in the period. None of the company can be faulted, and the triumph of the evening is Jane Freeman’s Annie Boarder, a rough, humorous woman of the back street, literally fighting for her life.

Review extract from the Illustrated London News (17/4/1971, p. 28) of the later London production of There Was a Time, now renamed Hanky Park. Part of a review article titled ‘Theatre’ by the celebrated theatre critic, J.C. Trewin.

Walter Greenwood’s story, from his own book, comes slowly but with cumulative pressure into its dramatic form. We have every opportunity to think ourselves into the since demolished area which took its name from Hankinson Street. It is the world of Love on the Dole, and it is roughly this stage in Hanky Park’s life that we have reached when the play ends. It does not fade out slowly; it is cut off in mid career; and we can feel, if we like, that its life is still going on as we leave the Mermaid. Behind us Bernard Culshaw’s elaborate L. S. Lowry setting of cobbled street, bleak houses, huddled interiors, remains to flicker into life again at any moment. It is a world in which one never gets owt for nowt; it is to be fought through, but, without being sentimental, it has a great deal of warmth and kindness among the fighting. Even if happenings are predictable as Hanky Park moves into war, as the obituary grows, and as the streets come back to the new alarums of peace and, at length, the General Strike, we can invariably respect Walter Greenwood’s method of recollection and the acting of such excellent players as Sally Miles, Jack Tweddle, and Penny Ryder, who is the Hanky Park girl stage-struck and unfortunate. An affectionate production by Josephine Wilson does a lot for a piece that is necessarily episodic. While watching it I remembered a book review long ago, and in another context: a celebrated critic described the characters as shown in a crystal: deft phrases throw little searchlights hither and thither over the period. Every small beam finds its mark, rests upon it illuminatingly, and fades away to make room for another at a different level in the crystal. This seems to me to speak clearly for Hanky Park, a play that I am glad to have known.

Cover of the Programme for the Oldham Coliseum’s 1979 production of Hanky Park.