August 14, 2009 / 2:03 PM / in 8 years

Lady Churchill, Miss Jean Brodie hits at Edinburgh

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - “He never does anything he doesn’t want to do, and always has someone else to clear up the mess afterwards.”

That’s how Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine sums up the tribulations of living with her workaholic husband as portrayed by actress Rohan McCullough in a riveting hour-long monologue in “My Darling Clemmie” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The intimate Assembly Rooms theater is ideally suited to the production, skillfully written by McCullough’s scriptwriter husband Hugh Whitemore, playing to packed audiences.

Another Fringe theater hit is director Laurie Sansom’s production of the late Muriel Spark’s novel “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” a penetrating and disturbing study of a dedicated “progressive” teacher at a conservative Edinburgh girls’ school who admired fascism as it made its mark on Europe in the 1930s.

The play, with Anna Francolini giving a fine performance as the teacher Jean Brodie, also has an uncomfortable resonance in political inroads by the right-wing in Britain today.

My Darling Clemmie follows Clementine Hozier from her birth in 1885, through her marriage to Churchill in 1908, World War One, the politics of the 1920s and his “wilderness years” of the 1930s until he finally became Britain’s World War Two leader. He died at the age of 90 in 1965, while Clemmie died in 1977.

Whitemore had a wealth of material on the Churchills: he wrote the script for the award-winning teleplay on Churchill in the 1930s, “The Gathering Storm,” with Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave playing the leading roles. A second teleplay, “Into The Storm” (of World War Two) has been released in the United States and is due in Britain in September.

McCullough said Churchill’s youngest daughter and only surviving child, Lady Mary Soames, had given them broad access to letters between her parents, who called each other “Pussycat” and “Mr. Pug.”

“She provided us with masses of new material for me to look at, letters between Clemmie and Churchill, and it was a marvelous treat to read all these wonderful letters that they wrote the entire way through their marriage,” she told Reuters.

Did she like the Churchills after all this contact?

“Yes I do, I mean, every time I see him with his blue eyes and his charm and his wit. And I like her, I admire her immensely.”

The Daily Telegraph described the play in a review as “a moving production of a complex marriage told with steadfast lucidity.”

Theater, alongside dance, comedy, art and other shows is a mainstay of the three-week long Fringe, which this year offers more than 2,000 shows at more than 200 venues throughout the Scottish capital. Performers have registered shows originating in 60 different countries.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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