1941. Winter. The Nazis are bombing Britain into oblivion; Russia is draining our resources; the USA reels from a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and refuses our cries for help; the Prime Minister desperately crosses the Atlantic by sea to appeal in person to the US military, to Congress and to the President at the White House family Christmas - and suffers a heart attack. Churchill is seriously not welcome. Did the special relationship arise out of this? Allies?
Alliance unwraps the "special relationship".
A Play by Giles Cole
© Holofcener Ltd
Director: Stephen Unwin
Designer: Simon Higlett
Casting: Ginny Schiller
Production Manager: Roger Richardson
Production planned for opening early in 2022, followed by a UK national tour and transfer to London's West End.
Winter. 1941. The darkest days of World War II. Britain is struggling under Nazi bombardment. Prime Minister Winston Churchill is having to strike a deal with Stalin in Russia. America is the ally Britain really needs - but neutral America is stinging from a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the Pacific Ocean. US President Franklin D Roosevelt is now intent on revenge in the Far East. If America is to be an ally, Churchill has to steer FDR away from fighting Japan to fighting a war across the Atlantic Ocean, in Europe, first. How?
Churchill invites himself to the White House to meet the President. FDR and Churchill have met before, and FDR still smarts from Churchill's snub. Churchill considers the dangerous Atlantic crossing to be a risk worth taking. This will not be an easy meeting.
The play lifts the lid on what happened (and what might have happened!) when Churchill landed in the White House, and exploded Eleanor Roosevelt's quiet, private family Christmas and their New Year celebrations in 1941/42. It exposes her animosity to Churchill; puts the presidential marital relationship under a microscope; reveals FDR's reluctance to countermand US military advisers, and shows how Churchill's health, and personal habits, made matters even worse.
Giles Cole's deliciously amusing, sharp, perceptive and eloquent script, discloses how, whilst fighting the implacable US General Marshall, coaxing the reluctant and evasive President, being obsequiously charming with Eleanor and direct with the White House staff, Churchill leans on FDR's diplomat Harry Hopkins for support and whisky. Through a series of fast-moving scenes, set against a wartime backdrop of Pathé Newsreel films, the play explores the emerging relationship between the two heads of state under the fierce gaze of Eleanor Roosevelt, as they establish a "special relationship" that could enable the USA to become the UK's prime ally in World War II, if it comes off , which looks unlikely when Churchill suffers a heart attack and has to convince Congress to become Britain's ally.
There's an account of Churchill's unnerving return Atlantic crossing and an acknowledgement of the two nations' relationship, that is today reflected in the Allies sculpture in New Bond Street, London W1.
This is an especially topical production, reflected in the light of today's political situation.
On the 9th Feb 2021 it's the 80th anniversary of Winston Churchill's speech appealing to the USA to help Britain fight the Nazis...
Graham Pountney was interviewed by Sarah Gorrell on BBC Radio Surrey & Sussex on the 20th November 2020.