“Happy Warriors” Reviewed

The play now running at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate involving Evelyn Waugh and Randolph Churchill in WWII Yugoslavia has been reviewed in London Theatre 1. The review is by Loretta Monaco and is, on the whole, favorable. After describing the plot (see previous posts) the reviewer discusses the production. She finds the staging well done but has some reservations as to the script:

If a theatre-goer were to be influenced by the writing, it would appear that playwright Macdonald wishes only to perpetuate the idea that Randolph Churchill was a bounder and a cad. If this was the purpose, then Macdonald has failed. Simon Pontin presents us with quite a sympathetic Randolph, one who has been cursed at birth, since all his gifts will be overshadowed by his father’s success. If he is a womaniser, known for his good looks and charm, so be it. It is a talent in which he excels, one with no connection to daddy. As for his insufferable arrogance, it may have much to do with an identification with his paternal grandfather, Lord Randolph Churchill. All is forgiven in Happy Warriors, and Randolph’s character revisited when he intervenes to thwart an attempted suicide but to say more will reveal too much of the plot.

Finally, the character of Evelyn Waugh is thinly drawn, even though he was the more fascinating of the two men. Up to the present day, Waugh is celebrated not only as a great novelist, but also for his courage during the Second World War, attributes which are ignored in the play. His character is little more than a waspish male with petty complaints, an extremely limited portrayal of his achievements. But there is always a choice in drama as to where to place the weight and, in Happy Warriors, it is placed firmly on the side of Randolph – perhaps more for his father than for himself.

The review concludes that the play is “well worth seeing.” Performances continue through 22 April.

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