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HAPPY WARRIORS: Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Poster for the play Happy Warriors

Happy Warriors

A new play by James Hugh MacDonald showing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

At a time when any success against the Germans was rare, even a campaign by Communist guerrillas had been welcome news to Prime Minister Winston Churchill; and the hope arose that this front might expand and sap Hitler’s strength. Having assessed the Partisans and convinced that they were indeed fighting hard against the common enemy, Winston took a personal interest in sending a military mission to Tito to encourage him and to supply him with the munitions of war, despite the fact Tito himself never wavered in his devotion to the Communist International (although he did not flaunt the fact).

When the Allied armies fighting in Italy reached central Italy in 1943, aid to the Partisans was organised from a depot in Bari. Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean, the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative, headed the mission to Tito. Winston, seeing a clear line of action, then sent his son, Randolph Churchill, who had the rank of Major, to join the mission.

Randolph Churchill was well known for his capacity to arouse antagonism and for a generous estimate of his own abilities. Before long he was heard to complain that he lacked companions of his own social and intellectual standing and began to press for his old acquaintance, the celebrated writer Evelyn Waugh, to be posted in. Waugh possessed an independent character and experience that seemed valuable for this harsh region; and although in London his relationship with Randolph Churchill had often been stormy, nevertheless, Waugh, by then a Captain in the Royal Horse Guards and awaiting posting, was asked for to fill the gap. After protracted negotiation, since Waugh was known as a difficult character, the posting was agreed; something which both men quickly came to regret.

The presence of an unwilling, angry, belligerent young cook/housekeeper, forced by the Partisans to do menial work before being allowed to join the guerrilla force, adds fuel to the atmosphere of hilarious antagonism.

DIRECTOR ANDREW C. WADSWORTH brings a wealth of experience to this new comedy. As an actor, he has played major roles in over 25 London productions, in the West End and at the National Theatre. He has appeared internationally and on TV and film.

DESIGNER SORCHA CORCORAN graduated from Rose Bruford with a First-Class Honours degree in Theatre Design BA, Sorcha Corcoran is currently a set, costume and events designer whose skills and experience covers many different areas including opera, fringe theatre, musicals, installations and live events.

LIGHTING DESIGNER AARON J DOOTSON has been lighting since the age of 14. He moved to London in 2007 to study lighting design at Wimbledon College of Art. He qualified with a distinction in 2009.

WRITER JAMES HUGH MACDONALD had a varied career before turning to play-writing.  Having been commissioned in the Royal Scots Fusiliers he served with his Regiment and also in minor staff positions with British Troops, Berlin, and in HQ BAOR before going up to the University of Oxford, later passing the examination for entry to the Diplomatic Service.  Thereafter he studied in the School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Hong Kong.  Having decided to leave the Foreign Service he worked as an Assistant Principal and Principal in the Home Civil Service, subsequently turning to university administration, then to lecturing in Chinese Politics and British Politics.  Once retired, he turned to the theatre, which he regards as the greatest of the arts. For James, at 91 years of age, this is his “big break”!

NEIL CHINNECK will be playing the role of EVELYN WAUGH

MARTHA DANCY will be playing the role of ZORA PANIC

SIMON PONTIN will be playing the role of RANDOLPH CHURCHILL