A new play documenting the fascinating time in post-war history when Government changed in power from Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Labour’s Clement Attlee comes to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre this Autumn.
The play arrives in the city to coincide with the Labour Party Conference, being held in Liverpool the same week – a deliberate and clever move by playwright and author Francis Beckett.
Clement Attlee runs for two shows at The Epstein Theatre on Monday 26 September and Tuesday 27 September, at 8pm each evening. Tickets are on sale now.
The Epstein Theatre is Grade II Listed and located in the heart of Liverpool city centre, it was named after the legendary gay Beatles’ manager and ‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein.
Playwright Francis Beckett brings the new play to the city asking some pertinent questions – Clement Attlee was Labour’s greatest PM, is Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer a Clem Attlee figure; how does he match up; is he another Attlee?
Francis Beckett is an author, journalist, playwright, and contemporary historian. He was the 2009 winner of the Ted Wragg Award for lifetime achievement in education journalism. He has a degree in History and Philosophy from Keele University and has written 17 books mostly on contemporary history, including a much-praised biography of Clement Attlee – Clem Attlee, Labour’s Great Reformer by Haus Publishing.
Originally called A Modest Little Man, the newly entitled and critically acclaimed play Clement Attlee has had three successful sold out London fringe runs at Bread And Roses in South London and then Upstairs at the Gatehouse in North London, before coming to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre.
Clement Attlee’s 1945 to 1951 Government founded the National Health Service; created the welfare state; brought in free education for all; and nationalised key industries like railways. Attlee is considered by historians to be the greatest 20th Century Prime Minister.
The play begins in May 1945, when Britain celebrated victory over Hitler and cheered Winston Churchill. But revolution was in the air. Things had changed and the poor didn’t want to go back to the way things were. They remembered the 1930s – it was a time of poverty, unemployment and starvation in the midst of ostentatious wealth. They didn’t want that again. The men and women who fought the war wanted a better world. They wanted the rich to pay a bit more, so the poor could suffer a bit less.
They wanted a national health service. Pay when unemployed so their families wouldn’t starve. Education for everyone, so that no-one would grow up unable to read or write. And they wanted the Labour Party to deliver it. Clement Attlee was the Labour Leader, and the man who had to deliver it. But how could he?
Clement Attlee sounded like a provincial bank manager. He was “a modest little man with plenty to be modest about”. He sat in his grey suit and puffed his pipe. This wasn’t a man to deliver a revolution. Except he did just that.
Playwright and author Francis Beckett explained, “This is a history play for our times. It reminds us of a time when Britain was competently governed, when its leaders put substance before style. Staged in Liverpool during Labour Party Conference week, this play will give theatregoers a chance to rate Sir Keir Starmer alongside Labour’s greatest ever leader.
“People asked me how I could write a comedy about this boring little man. But beneath the commonplace exterior, he was a fascinating man, and a Prime Minister of rare skill and determination. I hope this play proves it.”
The title role of Clement Attlee is played by Roger Rose; with Lynne O’Sullivan as Violet Attlee; Pete Picton as Herbert Morrison; Miranda Colmans as Rose and Jennie Lee; Silas Hawkins as Winston Churchill, Hugh Dalton, and John Carvel; and Clive Greenwood as Vicar, King George VI, and Nye Bevan.
Clement Attlee will be directed by Owain Rose, with sound and lighting by Frank Turnbull.
Main image: Roger Rose as Clement, Lynne O’Sullivan as Violet. Credit: Mark Thomas