Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Winston and David, written by Robert Lloyd George and skilfully directed by Nick Hennegan, is the story of Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, and Frances Stevenson – two opposing political figures who formed an allegiance across the floor of parliament – and LG’s Personal Secretary who would later become his mistress and wife. Well written and beautifully performed, this is a story of politics, opposition, love, and true friendship that gently educates the audience, while drawing them into the journey.
Covering the period from Churchill and DLG’s first crossing of the parliament floor, to the end of LG’s life, Winston and David gives a behind the scenes feel to exerts of a relationship between two leaders, as told by LG’s secretary, and would-be wife. The audience finds themselves in the offices, homes, and even the golf-course, of two very different politicians. While politics plays a role, it is ultimately the story of friendship.
Despite the title of the show, Alexandra Donnachie playing (amongst other characters) the role of Frances Stevenson, or ‘Pussy’, as she’s more affectionately known as, is the true story-teller and headliner in this piece. Her confidence and presence on the stage is the perfect counterbalance to the two male characters, and she expertly commands the audience’s attention, even when she displays the vulnerability of a secretary who falls in love with a much older man, who happens to be her then-married boss and would-be Prime Minister.
Geraint Rhys and Peter Swales tackle the roles of DLG and Winston Churchill (again, amongst other characters) and present strong characterisations of two leaders who not only commanded attention as a pair, but as individual characters as well. Rhys was able to appear strong, yet susceptible to criticism at the same time, and Swales undertook Churchills known mannerisms and stubborn, hard-headed temperament with solid skill. Both characterisations left room for development through the run, and it would have been good to see both Churchill and DLG’s personas grow during the performance, particular as the scope of the play covers a lengthy portion of their careers.
Robert Lloyd George’s writing and Nick Hennegan’s direction were strong, engaging and worked seamlessly together. The audience was able to move through different eras with the story flowing smoothly and transitions highlighted with subtle movements of the furniture or differences in characterisations by the actors.
The set, sound and lighting all worked in conjunction with the story; refined, functional, yet vital to the in-depth coverage of the period.
Winston and David challenges a strong cast to tell a political story in an engaging, yet also un-political way. Focusing on the characters struggle through friendship from opposite sides, and unexpected love steaming from both circumstance and shared admiration, the viewer was challenged to look outside the political and into the characters themselves. The audience was involved in the journey and appreciated the performance as well as the story.
As a World-Premiere, there is work for further development; the characterisation build up and pace of the delivery will no-doubt improve during the 3 week run. Should there ever be scope for performance outside Fringe, a full-scale production of this engaging, timely piece would be well received in this current climate.