Eva Elwes (1876–1950) was an English actor and playwright who wrote over 50 plays between 1907 and 1938.
Eva Elwes was born Gertrude Emma Cannon on 1 February 1876 in Frome, Somerset, the second child of Mark and Ellen Cannon. In the 1891 British census her occupation was 'draper’s apprentice'.
The 1911 British census listed Elwes as Eva Eykyn, living in a boarding house in Walsall with Ernest Eykyn (Llewellyn Ernest Eykyn, 1875–1956). Elwes’s occupation was 'actress' and Eykyn’s was 'actor'. Between 1900 and 1918 Elwes and Eykyn appeared together in a number of productions.
Elwes and Eykyn lived in Walsall from about 1911 to 1921. They moved to South Shields where they married in 1925; her status on the marriage certificate was ‘widow’ and his was ‘scenic artist’. They remained in South Shields until 1940 when they retired to Mirfield, West Yorkshire. Eva Elwes died on 16 June 1950 in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire.
Between 1896 and the late 1920s Elwes performed in a variety of plays and variety shows. She regularly performed in her own plays which were often staged by Will H. Glaze’s touring theatre company. She also acted in other touring companies playing mostly in the north of England.
In 1921 Will Glaze took on the lease of the Alexandra Theatre in Wallis Street (off Barrington Street), South Shields. Eykyn became the theatre’s stage manager and artist, and Elwes performed in the Alexandra Players. Elwes became the co-lessee of the theatre with Ethel Hird from 1930–1940. When the theatre closed in 1940, due to the World War II blackout, a newspaper article recalled "some particularly fine performances by that grand dowager of drama Eva Elwes".
Elwes and Eykyn both contributed to the Actors’ Benevolent Fund from the production of one her plays The Cottage Girl.
Elwes was one of several female writers of melodramas in the early 20th century. She wrote over 50 plays, mostly melodramas but also pantomimes, in the thirty-year period 1907–1938. Forty six plays were submitted to the Lord Chamberlain (the official censor) for licensing, and the scripts and Readers’ Reports are held in the British Library Lord Chamberlain Plays Collection. References to other plays, not submitted for licence, can be found in newspapers of the time.
Her first play was a musical drama His Sister’s Honour which was staged in Fleetwood in January 1907.
World War I themes
Several plays had wartime themes and settings, such as Joy, Sister of Mercy, John Raymond's Daughter and Billy's Mother. German spies and the sinking of a U-boat feature in Heaven at the Helm.
A later play (The Price She Paid) dramatised the story of Edith Cavell the British nurse who was shot by the Germans in 1915 after being suspected of spying.
The Price She Paid
In 1925 the Alexandra Theatre in South Shields submitted an application to the Lord Chamberlain for a licence for Elwes's play entitled Edith Cavell, Nurse and Martyr. The Lord Chamberlain would not grant a licence after consultation with Cavell's sisters who did not feel the play was accurate. In 1927 the Alexandra Theatre resubmitted its application. It was initially refused again but when Elwes changed the title to The Price She Paid and changed the names of the characters of Cavell and her mother a licence was granted. The Price She Paid was performed at the Alexandra Theatre in 1927.
Elwes wrote two plays on local Tyneside identities (Dolly Peel and Fifty Fafty).
Elwes's play told the story of Dolly Peel, a South Shields fishwife and smuggler, who lived 1782 to 1857. The play was first performed in August 1923 at the Alexandra Theatre with Will Glaze and Elwes in the cast; the scenery was designed and painted by Ernest Eykyn.
A handwritten script of Dolly Peel was discovered during renovations of a building in South Shields in 2004. The play was revived and performed at the Customs House in 2005 to mark the theatre's 10th anniversary.
- His Sister's Honour (1907)
- The Royal Mail (1908)
- Salome (1910)
- For her Son (1912)
- Anybody's Wife (1912) (co-authored with Kennedy Allen)
- Love and What Then (1913)
- A White Slave of the Streets (1913)
- Mary Latimer – Nun (1913)
- Mother Mine (1914)
- Joy, Sister of Mercy (1914)
- His Mother's Rosary (1915)
- The Woman Pays – Back (1915)
- John Raymond's Daughter (1915)
- Pals (1915)
- Should a Woman Forgive? (1916)
- The Sunshine of Paradise Alley (1916)
- Heaven at the Helm (1916)
- The Fishermaid of Old St Malo (1916)
- A Mother's Prayer (1916)
- The Cottage Girl (1916)
- Honour the Man you Wed (1917)
- The Girl Mother (1917)
- His Wife's Good Name (1917)
- Love's Young Dream (1918)
- Billy's Mother (1918)
- Kitty of Kensington (1920)
- The Child who Stood Between (1920)
- The Scandalmongers (1920)
- Not Fit to Marry (1922)
- Fifty Fafty (1923)
- Dolly Peel (1923)
- St Joan of Arc (1924)
- Under Red Rule (1925)
- Uncle Tom's Cabin (1925)
- The Ten Commandments (1926)
- The Price She Paid (1927)
- The Roll of the Drum (1928)
- Charity Children (1931)
- The Bonny Fishwife (1932)
- Jessica's First Prayer (1932)
- The Poor Little Rich Girl (1935)
- Smilin Thru (1937)
- Min and Bill (1937)
- The Silence of Dean Maitland (1937)
- Rudge, Martin and Baker (1938)
- The Era, 10 October 1896, p. 5
- Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, 4 February 1899, p. 2
- The Era, 18 March 1899, p. 6
- The Stage, 2 March 1899, no. 937, p. 10
- The Stage, 4 May 1899, no. 946, p. 17
- The Era, 1 December 1900, p. 25
- The Stage, 23 April 1908, no. 1414, p. 14
- Jarrow Express, 5 May 1916, p. 3
- The Era, 28 June 1916, p. 21
- The Stage, 12 April 1917, no. 1882, p. 11
- Falkirk Herald, 27 February 1918, p. 3
- The Era, 3 November 1915, p. 2
- The Stage, 20 February 1919, no. 1979, p. 2
- The Stage, 22 June 1950, no. 3610, p. 11
- The Era, 21 June 1922, p. 10
- The Era, 10 May 1922, p. 10
- Shields Gazette, 24 Nov 2003
- The Stage, 22 June 1950, no. 3610, p. 11
- Shields Gazette, 10 February 1940
- The Era, 8 May 1918, p. 5
- Nicoll, Allardyce (1973). English drama 1900–1930. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 181. ISBN 0-52-108416-4 OCLC 634200728
- "Lord Chamberlain's Plays". British Library. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- The Green room book, or, Who's who on the stage: an annual biographical record of the dramatic, musical and variety world. London: T. Sealey Clark. 1908. p. 517. OCLC 173394014
- Williams, Gordon (2003). British Theatre in the Great War: a revaluation. New York: Continuum. p. 178,187. ISBN 0-82-645635-9
- "Billy's Mother". Great War Theatre. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
- The Era, 22 November 1916, p. 8
- Aldgate, Anthony; Robertson, James C. (2005). Censorship in theatre and cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 0-74-861960-7
- The Era, 15 August 1923, p. 7
- "Play tells touching tale of heroine". The Journal (Newcastle). 3 August 2005. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- "Dolly Peel". UK Theatre Web. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- The Era, 1 March 1923, p. 10
Plays written by Elwes during World War I are listed on the Great War Theatre website.