“What Nick has done is to add wings to Robert’s racing horse. What they’ve got is a Pegasus and it’s a joy to watch their creation take flight.”
Their friendship was as unlikely as their climbs were steep. One was the obscure son of Welsh nonconformity. The other was a scion of one of Great Britain’s most prominent aristocratic families. The first trained as a solicitor. The second readied himself for war. By the time they met, each had carved out a place in the unfolding drama of national life. They were each looking forward into a bright future in the public spotlight. At home, their combined talents would bring forth harvest after harvest of reforms in the grand old liberal tradition. Overseas they would make war and they would make peace. Kings, sultans, emperors, and presidents would look to these two titans for counsel and comradeship. Their names will live as long as the civilization which they preserved. But this play, despite the title, is not all about Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George.
She was Lloyd George’s typist and had been the close friend of the eldest daughter he mourned. She became his lover, confident, and friend. She would see him at his greatest and at his shabbiest – up close and very personal. From her unique vantage spot in his-story, Frances Stevenson could intimately chronicle the defining events of the early 20th century.
The play was adapted by Lloyd George’s great-great grandson, Robert, from his own 2005 book of the same title. What Robert produced was a thoroughbred script capturing the power of his subjects’ political horseflesh with an attention to detail and accuracy that would do credit to George Stubbs at the height of his powers. But EdFringe is turf like no other. The field is crowded. The going tough. It takes a certain something to get a script, especially one so rooted in verisimilitude, out of the starting gates. Just as Lloyd George and Churchill complimented and compensated for each others’ faults and faculties, Robert and Nick Hennegan, the show’s director, have found a perfect balance between essential drama and necessary detail. What Nick has done is to add wings to Robert’s racing horse. What they’ve got is a Pegasus and it’s a joy to watch their creation take flight.
As Frances Stevenson, and several other characters, Alexandra Donnachie is wondrous. She’s smart, sexy, kind, and confident. Her scenes of heartache are deeply touching. Few actors could manage to hold their ground between two such larger than life personalities, Donnachie not only holds, she takes centre stage and gives back as good as she gets. Peter Swales is a very believable Churchill. The scene on the golf links is a masterclass in just enough. As DLG Geraint Rhys has a choice to make and now would be a good time to make it. Was his character a sincere and driven man of vision, or a grubby chancer with an outsized appetite for sex à la Bill Clinton? Or was he both? Rhys tiptoes around the question. I’d like to see him dive in.
The staging is an understated star. Nick Hennegan, a thirty-year EdFringe veteran, has brought his A Game to the properties, lighting, and sound design. This is Fringe theatre at its absolute best. It’s what the Festival is ultimately for. A new production finding its feet starting with a walk, stretching to a trot, working up to a canter, and (maybe, just maybe) crossing the finish line at a full gallop. Only it won’t be a gallop because this production is a Pegasus.