It now seems inconceivable that in May 1940 the British war cabinet actually considered suing for peace with Hitler.
Yet over the three days in question we are asked to believe that an appeasement plan to approach the German fuhrer through the Italian dictator Mussolini was under serious discussion. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in office only 16 days, is faced with a plea from his Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax to give up the war, which is going badly.
As the defeated British Army retreats to Dunkirk Will Churchill waver? Well, he may have done so for a brief moment early in this play but any hopes that some riveting revelations may come to light in Ben Brown’s new work are quickly dashed.
Instead we get a lifeless first act in which five men sit around the table and repeat their arguments and only later in the piece do we get a glimpse of the people as opposed to the politicians.
Warren Clarke gives a truly Churchillian display as the inspirational, bullying leader, carrying a box containing his gas mask and grunting and growling at his colleagues. His performance is more than just an excellent impression.
There is convincing acting back-up particularly from Robert Demeger as Churchill’s predecessor Neville Chamberlain, haunted by his humiliation at Munich and Jeremy Clyde as the eloquent but eventually isolated Halifax.
The character of Jock Colville, diarist and private secretary to three prime ministers could have been developed more than the role of narrator. In fact, when Churchill invites Colville, ably played by James Alper, to try a Havana cigar it is one of the few touching moments.
The work, directed by Alan Strachan and heading for London’s West End, runs in Bath until Saturday with tickets at £17.50 to £33.50. Click here for tickets.