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Churchill review at Carriageworks Theatre Leeds

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When Winston Churchill was in Munich in 1932, Adolf Hitler proposed a meeting. It never took place. The Harrogate writer Tony Tortora’s debut play imagines a face-to-face encounter happening, but not in 1932; it’s set in the afterlife.

Churchill (Jeremy Dobbs) is in a room which is a sort of way station for those who have died. He is adjusting to the shock of his own death. Two servants, Stephen Bellamy and Carolyn Eden, attend to his needs, filling the room with what is familiar to him.

When Hitler (Michael Forrest) enters the two men converse, argue and fight – or rather struggle – for a brief moment. Churchill’s privileged background is contrasted with Hitler’s early experiences. Their differing attitudes to politics, their differing abilities at painting are brought into sharp relief. The puzzle over why they are there in the room, indeed why Hitler has been there for so long, is gradually drawn to the surface.

Premiered at the Carriageworks Theatre, where New End Theatre Beyond productions are always launched, Churchill has restraint in the playing and a measure of atmosphere. More of the latter will help, having the room surrounded by stark white perhaps. The two servants are too much of this world. Both actors are capable of drawing out more of the mystery in their roles.

Dobbs and Forrest do not impersonate. They let the speech patterns in Tortora’s excellent script do the work; Churchill’s wit, pragmatism and compassion contrasting with Hitler’s bitterness and unease.

What would Churchill and Hitler have talked about had they met? Much of it is here.

Production Information

Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds, July 4-20, then Artsdepot, London, July 23-27

Author
Tony Tortora
Director
Richard Bonham
Producer
New End Theatre Beyond
Cast
Jeremy Dobbs, Michael Forrest, Stephen Bellamy, Carolyn Eden
Running time
2hrs
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