Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Three Days in May

To see a very fine performance by Warren Clarke as Churchill in Ben Brown's play Three Days in May, at the Theatre Royal Bath, last night. Clarke well captured the mix of wiles and passion that saw Churchill get his way at a crucial stage in World War II. The days in question, 26-28 May 1940, were on the eve of Dunkirk, as Belgium had surrendered and France was close to doing so. Churchill had four others in his war cabinet: for the Tories, remarkably, both Neville Chamberlain, still party leader, and the foreign secretary Lord Halifax, both noted appeasers, with Clem Attlee and Arthur Greenwood for Labour. The real drama is between Churchill and Halifax - ably portrayed by Jeremy Clyde - over the latter's support for a French attempt to use Mussolini as a mediator to sue for peace with Hitler. In the end, a lot of the drama hinges on how Chamberlain reacts to the competing arguments, scarred as he is by Munich. This is a splendid production by Alan Strachan, and a fascinating reminder of the debates that still took place in the Tory party nine months after the outbreak of the Second World War.

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