Chamberlain: Peace in Our Time

Chamberlain has been relegated to history as one of life’s wishful thinkers. The famous photo of him proudly waving the Munich Agreement live on as a symbol of failed negotiation and blistering naivety towards Hitler’s evil. Yet, Chamberlain: Peace in Our Time provides an intimate portrayal of the prime minister that defends his peaceful intentions. David Leeson’s powerful script transports us to number 10 as Chamberlain prepares to give his famous 1939 radio speech declaring war with Germany. In the build up to this life-changing moment, he shares a drink with his aide, Jack, and wonders where it all went wrong.

The new perspectives within this new writing are invaluable.

Leeson in the title role was absolutely phenomenal. His performance showed painstaking accuracy and research, particularly when Chamberlain finally recorded his speech. He sensitively depicted a man battered and broken by his mistakes, which made for a powerful portrait. Though they could have appeared more frequently, Leeson still managed to include snippets of Chamberlain’s frustrated bitterness and anger. Jack, played by Freddy Goymer, was the perfect confidant to Chamberlain’s thoughts over a glass of scotch. When left alone on stage, he gave invaluable insight into the prime minister’s temperament as negotiations with Hitler fell apart.

The whole production of Chamberlain: Peace in Our Time rings with powerful melancholy and regret. Simplicity remains the key feature of this performance, although a few more changes in lighting, even subtle, might have created a smoother transition between the musical interludes and the dialogue. Well-known wartime tunes provided a real flavour of the times and were expertly sung by Goymer. These romanticised musical depictions of a turbulent time in British history proved a cruel backdrop to Chamberlain’s angst. They could have been abridged, but remained a crucial feature of the performance.

Chamberlain: Peace in Our Time innovatively injects these historical events with surprising relevancy. Many look back on Chamberlain as a weak and spineless leader. However, juxtaposed against the cowardice seen in many of our politicians today, Leeson’s Chamberlain shows real backbone. The new perspectives within this new writing are invaluable.

Reviews by Carla van der Sluijs

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The Blurb

In the last two years, Searchlight Theatre have cast their beam on Noel Coward and most recently on Laurel and Hardy. Both productions received rave reviews and played to full houses. Now a British Prime Minister, who is often regarded as our least effective and most unpopular. This new production asks why. His desire was peace in our time, his legacy was nearly six years of war. The play is set just before his famous radio broadcast to the nation informing Britain that she was at war with Germany. WWII songs are threaded cleverly throughout.

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