The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

The Black Mask (play 1899-1915)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Illustration in The Stage (16 may 1901, p. 20)

The Black Mask is a British play written by Frank Marriott Watson, first performed by the Marriott-Watson company at the St. James's Hall (Manchester, UK) on 31 july 1899 and toured by various companies until 1915 (see performances).

The second act is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story, The Case of Lady Sannox (1893). According to the period newspapers, Conan Doyle gave his permission to the writer.

The play has a prologue and 3 acts.



Plot summary

Walter Blackmore, a young doctor, is forbidden by the wealthy Mr Cunningham to pay attentions to his daughter Nellie, though he is the son of his old friend. Walter, nevertheless, declares his intention of proposing to Nellie, who has already refused the offer of Henri Lenoir, a foreign friend of the family. Walter is on the point of declaring his love to Nellie when news of the failure of his bankers keeps him silent. Nellie's father subsequently relents, and, thinking Walter has asked for Nellie's hand, writes a note bidding her for his sake to marry the man who has proposed to her. This note he leaves on his desk and falls asleep in his chair. At midnight he receives a visit from the "Black Mask," who proves to be no other than Henri Lenoir, who stabs Cunningham and secures the letter for future use. The old man before dying attempts to trace with his blood the name of the murderer upon the window blind, but death stops him short after having written only six of the letters. These form the first part of Dr. Blackmore's name, and he is promptly accused of the murder by Henri Lenoir when the house is aroused. Evidenee proves that the murder was the work of the "Black Mask," who, under his name of Philip Lenoir, has induced Nellie to marry him on the strength of the note left by her dead father. A number of years have elapsed since the tragedy, during which Lenoir has brutally ill-treated both mother and the son of the marriage. The boy in one of his escapades assumes a fawn coat and black mask which he has found in his father's room, and which Nellie recognises as belonging to the assassin. She has barely time to conceal the gruesome articles ere she is visited by Walter Blackmore, who offers her help. The old sweethearts are interrupted by the arrival of Lenoir, who accuses Walter of dishonourable motives, much to that gentleman's evident displeasure. "'It 'im 'ard!" came a female voice at this moment from the gallery; and Walter did so, stretching the scoundrel at his feet. The "Black Mask" takes a diabolical revenge, for he first horsewhips the boy and then smuggles him off to his vile retreat, where the boy wins the goodwill of Jem Rudge, one of the "Black Mask's" gang. Jem protects the boy from the cruelty of "Daddy," another of the gang, and is struck by Lenoir with the butt end of a revolver. In pursuit of his revenge, Lenoir lures Nellie to the house on pretence of restoring the boy, but when she arrives he administers a drug which renders her apparently unconscious, while she is still able to see and hear all that passes. Disguised in a long beard and the fez of a Turk, Lenoir calls in Dr. Blackmore to perform an operation on his wife, who, he alleges, is suffering from blood-poisoning, and whose life can be saved only by removing part of the upper lip. All possibility of recognition is averted by covering his wife's face with a "yashmak," as becomes a Turkish lady, but when Walter is about to begin the operation Nellie shows signs of animation, and Lenoir hurries the doctor out of the room. This is the opportunity of a couple of comic servants, who rush in and release Nellie, substituting in her place a female accomplice of the "Black Mask," who on the doctor's return suffers the mutilation intended for his wife. Further reverses await the "Black Mask," whose crimes are brought home to him in the last act, and who meets his death at the hands of Jem Rudge.


Acts

  • Prologue : Room in Philip Cunningham's House
  • Act 1 : Lenoir's House
  • Act 2 : The Retreat of the "Black Mask"
  • Act 3 : Nellie's New Home at Helsbye


Dramatis Personae

  • Philip Cunningham, a Gentleman of Means
  • Nellie Cunningham, afterwards Lenoir's Wife
  • Walter Blackmore, a Young Doctor
  • Henri Lenoir, the "Black Mask"
  • Samuel Winkle, Blackmore's Servant [1]
  • Thomas Bryant, Cunningham's Servant
  • Stella, Lenoir's Mistress
  • Emma Burt, Nellie's Servant
  • "Daddy", of the Black Mask's Gang
  • "Chicken", of the Black Mask's Gang
  • Mother "One Eye", of the Black Mask's Gang
  • Jem Rudge, of the Black Mask's Gang
  • Inspector Forbes, from Scotland Yard
  • George Thorough, Assistant to Forbes
  • Philip Lenoir, Nellie's Child


Casts

1899-1903
Frank Marriott Watson's Company


1905
Fred Hammond's Company


1910-1915
F. Marriott Watson & James Usshers' company


1915
Frank H. Fortescue & Jennie Hayden's company



Performances

Ad in The Leigh Chronicle (29 september 1899, p. 1)

1899

  • 24 july : Theatre Royal (Garston, UK) Trial performance
  • 31 july : St. James's Hall (Manchester, UK) Premiere

First Tour

  •  ? : Leigh, UK
  • 24-28 october : Prince's Theatre (Preston, UK)
  • 30 oct - 4 nov : Chester-le-Street (UK)
  • 13 november : Cambridge Theatre (Spennymoor, UK)
  • 18 november : Theatre Royal (Sunderland, UK)
  • 26 november : Theatre Royal (Hartlepool, UK)
  • 3 december : Theatre Royal (Blyth, UK)
  • 11 december : Theatre Royal (North Shields, UK)
  • 17 december : Royalty Theatre and Opera House (Barrow-in-Furness, UK)
  • 24 december : Royal Osborne Theatre (Manchester, UK)

1900

  • 8 january : ? (Smethwick, UK)
  • 15 january : Star Theatre (Liverpool, UK)
  • 22 january : Grand Opera House (Radcliffe, UK)
  • 29 january : Prince of Wales Theatre (Salford, UK)
  • 5 february : Theatre Royal (Oldham, UK)
  • 12 february : Theatre Royal (Workington, UK)
  • 26 february : ? (Morecambe, UK)
  • 5 march : Grand Theatre (Chorley, UK)
  • 12 march : Theatre Royal (Garston, UK)
  • 19 march : Theatre Royal (Jarrow, UK)
  • 2 april : New Gaiety (Leith, UK)
  • 9 april : Her Majesty's Theatre (Aberdeen, UK)
  • 16 april : Her Majesty's Theatre (Dundee, UK)
  • 23 april : Paisley (UK)
  • 30 april : Glasgow (UK)
  • 7 may : Edinburgh (UK)
  • 14 may : Theatre Royal (Greenock, UK)
  • 28 may : Lyceum (Glasgow, UK)
  • 4 june : Theatre Royal (Coatbridge, UK)
  • 11 june : Theatre Royal (South Shields, UK)
  • 21 june : Prince's Theatre (Accrington, UK)

Second Tour

  • 13 august : 'The Empire (Oldham, UK)
  • 27 august : Prince of Wales's Theatre (Mexborough, UK)
  • 3 september : Gaiety Theatre (Burnley, UK)
  • 10 september : Theatre Royal (Goole, UK)
  • 17 september : Prince's Theatre (Blackburn, UK)
  • 24 september : Theatre Royal (Castleford, UK)
  • 1 october : Theatre Royal (Halifax, UK)
  • 8 october : St. James's Hall (Manchester, UK)
  • 15 october : TheatreRoyal (Leigh, UK)
  • 27 october : Theatre Royal (Wigan, UK)
  • 24 november : Royal Star Theatre (Wolverhampton, UK)
  • 3 december : Theatre Royal (Bristol, UK)
  • 8 december : Imperial Theatre (Bordesley, UK)
  • 17 december : Alhambra Theatre (Stourbridge, UK)

1901

  • 7 january : Prince of Wales Theatre (Salford, UK)
  • 17 january : Star Theatre (Liverpool, UK)
  • 21 january : The Metropole (Manchester, UK)
  • 4 march : Eden Theatre (Bishop Auckland, UK)
  • 11 march : Theatre Royal (Sunderland, UK)
  • 11 april : New Royal Theatre (Blyth, UK)
  • 19 april : Theatre Royal (Jarrow, UK)
  • 29 april : Wedgwood Royal (Surlsem, UK)
  • 9 may : Theatre Royal (Tonypandy, UK)
  • 16 may : Grand Theatre (Cardiff, UK)
  • 13 june : Theatre Royal (Cradley Heath, UK)
  • 26 august : St. James's Theatre (Manchester, UK)
  • 9 september : Prince of Wales's Theatre (Mexborough, UK)
  • 19 september : Harvey Institute (Barnsley, UK)
  • 23 september : Royal Court Theatre (Warrington, UK)
  • 11 october : Theatre Royal (Workington, UK)
  • 14 november : Theatre Royal (Wigan, UK)
  • 28 november : Star Theatre (Liverpool, UK)

1902

  • 10 march : Metropole Theatre (Glasgow, UK)
  • 17 march : Gaeity Theatre (Leith, UK)
  • 24 march : Pavilion Theatre (Edinburgh, UK)
  • 31 march : Victoria Theatre (Stanley, UK)
  • 10 april : Empress Theatre (Hartlepool, UK)
  • 17 april : Theatre Royal (Blyth, UK)
  • 24 april : New Theatre (Consett, UK)
  • 6 may : Palace Theatre (Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK)
  • 19 may : Theatre Royal (North Shields, UK)
  • 29 may : New Theatre Royal (Seaham Harbour, UK)
  • 9 june : Theatre Royal (Middlesborough, UK)
  • 11 august : Farnworth Theatre (Bolton, UK)
  • 18 august : Rotunda Theatre (Liverpool, UK)
  • 25 august : Grand Theatre (Walsall, UK)
  • 1 september : The Osborne (Manchester, UK)
  • 20 october : The Metropole (Abertillery, UK)
  • 27 october : Grand Theatre (Cardiff, UK)
  • 11 november : Theatre Royal (Windsor, UK)
  • 17 november : Ramsgate Amphitheatre (Ramsgate, UK)
  • 24 november : Theatre Royal (Dover, UK)
  • 6 december : King's Theatre (Walthamstow, UK)
  • 29 december : Theatre Royal (Stratford, UK)

1903

  • 19 january : Theatre Royal (Eastbourne, UK)
  • 2 february : Theatre Royal (Colchester, UK)
  • 16 february : Carlton Theatre (Birmingham, UK)
  • 9 march : Theatre Royal (Chesterfield, UK)
  • 6 april : Gaiety Theatre (Burnley, UK)
  • 25 may : Royal Court Theatre (Warrington, UK)

1904

  • 6 june : Grand Opera House (New York, USA)
  • 19 november : Opera House (Altoona, USA)
  • 29 november : Cumings Theater (Fitchburg, USA)
  • 12-14 december : New Haven Theater (New Haven, USA)

1905

  • 20 march : Empire Theatre (Dundee, UK)
  • 22 may : Bijou Theater (Pittsburgh, USA)
  • 29 may : New Star Theater (New York, USA)
  • 4 september : Empire Theatre (Douglas, Isle of Man, UK)
  • 4 november : King's Theatre (Walthamstow, UK)
  • 10 december : New Theatre Royal (Seaham Harbour, UK)

1910

  • 13 june : Theatre Royal (Sheffield, UK)
  • 23 june : Prince of Wales's Theatre (Great Grimsby, UK)
  • 30 june : Empire Theatre (Oldham, UK)
  • 2 july : Hippodrome (Wigan, UK)
  • 12 july : Theatre Royal (Belfast, UK)
  • 30 july : Theatre Royal (Middlesbrough, UK)
  • 9 august : Theatre Royal (Leeds, UK)
  • 20 august : Metropole Theatre (Gateshead, UK)
  • 27 august : Grand Theatre (West Hartlepool, UK)
  • 24 september : Lyceum (Glasgow, UK)
  • 26 september : Grand Theatre (Falkirk, UK)
  • 15 october : His Majesty's Theatre (Barrow-in-Furness, UK)
  • 21 october : Theatre Royal (Lincoln, UK)
  • 24 october : King's Theatre (Gainsborough, UK)
  • 3 november : Theatre Royal (Crook, UK)

1911

  • 3 february : Queen's Theatre (Dublin, UK)
  • 2 march : Grand Theatre (Aberavon, UK)
  • 25 april : Prince's Theatre (Portsmouth, UK)
  • 2 may : Metropole Theatre (Devonport, UK)
  • 10 june : Theatre Royal (Sunderland, UK)
  • 24 june : Alexandra Theatre (Sheffield, UK)
  • 4 july : Prince's Theatre (Bradford, UK)
  • 17 july : Royal Opera House (Coventry, UK)
  • 24 july : Alexandra Theatre (Birmingham, UK)

1912

  • 10 june : Theatre Royal (Smethwick, UK)
  • 2 july : Theatre Royal (Sheffield, UK)
  • 11 july : Royal Hippodrome (Salford, UK)

1915

  • 18 june : Queen's Theatre (Dublin, UK)
  • 25 june : New Theatre Royal (Birkenhead, UK)
  • 6 july : Metropole Theatre (Glasgow, UK)
  • 7 september : Theatre Royal (Bristol, UK)


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  1. Also mentioned as Sam Winkle or Sammy Winkle.

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