Harold Harley : The Arcadians

Harold Harley's book The Arcadians was a popular Edwardian musical.

The libretto was written by Harley – under his pen-name Mark Ambient – with Robert Courtneidge, and Alexander M. Thompson. The music was composed by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot, and the lyrics by Arthur Wimperis.

The show opened on 28th April 1909 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, where it ran for a total of 809 performances, and on Broadway 17th January 1910 where it ran for 136 performances.

Act One

In happy Arcadia, the Land that Time forgot, Sombra is troubled by reports of a place beyond the sea where monsters live in cages of brick and stone and never tell the truth – a place called London! When Father Time appears, the Arcadians beg him to bring them a Londoner. He reluctantly agrees, and causes an aeroplane carrying restaurateur James Smith to crash land.

Shortly after he arrives, Smith attempts to seduce Sombra by telling a lie. The populace are so shocked that they throw him into The Well of Truth. He emerges a transformed man – a youthful Arcadian – and will remain in this state until he tells a lie. Giving him the name Simplicitas, Sombra and her sister, Chrysaea, take him back to London to convert all people to their vision of truth and rustic simplicity.

Act Two

It is Cup Day at Askwood Racecourse. Jack Meadows has been thrown by his temperamental horse The Deuce, and has to rely on the hopeless jockey Peter Doody to ride it. His luck improves when he meets Eileen Cavanagh, a young Irish woman who is also sought after by another racehorse-owner, Sir George Paddock. In a sudden burst of thunder and lightning, the Arcadians arrive, much to everyone's amazement. Smith finds that his wife doesn't recognise him in the persona of Simplicitas, and is able to flirt outrageously with her! He agrees to help her open up an Arcadian restaurant in London. Meanwhile, Peter Doody has been savaged by The Deuce, leaving no rider. Sombra saves the day by talking to the horse, who agrees to win the race with Smith – fast asleep – on his back!

Act Three

The Arcadian Restaurant is a great success, with all fashionable London flocking to eat there and Smith having the time of his life. Unfortunately, Jack's fondness for the free-thinking Arcadian girls has caused great problems between him and Eileen, and it is necessary for Sombra to bring them back together again. Mrs Smith and Doody, becoming increasingly suspicious of Simplicitas, trick him into telling a lie. He falls into the ornamental well at the restaurant, only to re-emerge once more, with some relief, as the old James Smith. Sombra and Chrysaea, realising that their mission to make Londoners tell the truth has failed, return to Arcadia – but they leave two happy couples behind!

Musical numbers

The show included musical numbers:

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 02:53 / 22nd February 2023 / 6075

Page Ref: MMH549

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