Winston on the Run

Churchill is about the only politician in British history who can be referred to only by his first name. However, he’s only referred to as Winston by those on the Right, politically. For a brief year in 1940-41 he held the UK together to prevent the Nazi invasion, and as a result the rest of his disastrous career is forgotten.

Winston On The Run seizes on a moment in 1899 when, escaping from a Boer prisoner of war camp, Churchill is holed out for 14 hours in a mine, waiting either to be recaptured or escorted by British sympathisers to jump a train to freedom. This is the rather improbable framework for a retelling year’s events; a framing device of two election campaigns in Oldham - the first of which he lost, while he won the second - is used for early 1899 and in 1900.

It’s a ripping yarn, but one in which all the disreputable and fascinating aspects of the character are revealed. He is a romantic fantasist, desperate to get into the action; he is an opportunist who at one moment insists that he is an ‘impartial’ journalist and the next that he is really a fighter and ought to have a commission. Bowed down by the reputation of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a senior Tory politician who despised him, he was both desperate to escape his fathre’s shadow and not averse to pulling his rank: ‘I’m the son of a Lord’ is a theme line through the play.

It’s a Boy’s Own Story, because this is what Winston is living in his head, despite the dark thoughts of his depressive side. He alone will win the Boer War. And of course it is all for the greater glory of Winston, as well as the Empire.

Despite some vivid writing and an energetic performance from Freddie Machin, the show suffers from a serious uncertainty of tone. To what extent is it a send-up, and to what extent a serious character study? Machin makes no attempt at an impersonation (for a start, Churchill’s stammer would undermine the pace), which is fine because this is the character’s self-image. But he suggests that somehow the incident made Winston grow up, turning him from the bumbling social gadfly of the first by-election into the smooth politico of the second. There is nothing in the script to show how and why this came about.

There is a fine piece of work struggling to get out of this piece. But Machin needs to decide whether the play is fish or fowl, and rework it accordingly.

Reviews by Peter Scott-Presland

Charing Cross Theatre

Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris

★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Return of the Soldier

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Eye of a Needle

★★★★
Rosemary Branch Theatre

The Trial of the Jew Shylock

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

In The Heights

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

1899: lost in the African Savannah, escaped prisoner Winston Churchill’s wanted dead or alive. Relive the rollicking true story of how Britain’s greatest hero defeated the Boers, overcame his demons and grew his first moustache. www.folespoir.co.uk.

Most Popular See More

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets