‘Lloyd George Knew My Father’ is a droll and quirky, black comedy written in 1972 by Scottish playwright, William Douglas-Home.
William, like his older brother, the 1963-64 Conservative British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home, also had a political career - but as a Liberal. After three attempts, his career never really got off the ground. A man of his convictions, Captain William was Court Marshalled for disobeying an order in the Second World War and he received a year’s hard labour.
The title of the play comes from the post-war, schoolboy song, ‘Lloyd George Knew My Father’. Sung to the tune of ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’, the two-line lyrics consists of the phrase "Lloyd George knew my father/Father knew Lloyd George" repeated ad nauseam. It is thought that despite Lloyd George’s Bible thumping he was a womaniser, and that the song hinted at Lloyd George Knew My Mother!
The Darlington Theatre Players at the Marloo Theatre, Marloo Road, Greenmount are presenting this very funny play. The season runs until the 24th August, with performances at 8.00 pm and matinees at 2.00 pm.
A little irrelevant history. David Lloyd George was born on the 17th January 1863 to a schoolmaster and his wife. His father died a year later. By the age of 16, David passed his Law Society examination and was articled in Criccieth, Wales, defending people against overbearing authorities. He was a fiery preacher and Temperance Society official.
Lloyd George joined the local Liberal Party, and as the youngest member of the House of Commons, attempted to end church tithes. Lloyd George was also a strong supporter of land reform and the introduction of an Old Age Pension. His Act provided between 1 and 5 shillings a week to people over seventy; to pay for this, he increased taxation to 9 pence in the pound.
He introduced a children's allowance off income tax and a basic health scheme that cost every worker 4d. per week. Lloyd George had always been a supporter of women's rights, however, when in power, he did little to help. In 1936, Lloyd George visited Hitler to try to persuade him not to take military action in Europe. Lloyd George died on 26th March 1945.
It is 1972 and Edward Heath is Prime Minister, ‘The Joy of Sex’ has been published and Gough Whitlam has just become the Australian Prime Minister. Dr Beeching has closed most of the railway stations and consequently the motorway system is starting to expand.
On a wealthy estate in Edgehill, Southern Warwickshire live the Boothroyds. It is early morning in the palatial and beautifully furnished drawing room. As she is waiting for her husband to come down to breakfast, Lady Shelia Boothroyd (Rosemary Mowbray) is playing the grand piano. The 80-year-old faithful family retainer, Robertson (Bill Nind) is stumbling around, setting the table. Dressed in his shooting tweeds, in walks the dapper, but now partially deaf and slightly senile, General Sir William Boothroyd (Ray Egan – amazing performance).
Tolerantly, Lady Sheila listens to her husband relate the same stories that she has heard for the past 50 years of their marriage. Their son, Hubert (Keith Scrivens) enters the drawing room. He is a Member of Parliament and announces that, despite his position, he has been unable to stop the work on the new motorway that is to be driven through their historic parkland. Lady Sheila is furious and suspects that Hubert and his wife Maud (Nerida Watson) have had a backhander from the developers. Her Ladyship announces that she is willing to die rather than allow this defilement take place.
Hubert’s daughter, Sally (Martha Wood) is the apple of her grandma’s eye, and Sally’s new fiancé (David Bain), being a newspaper reporter, is equally popular with Lady Sheila who now wants him to battle on her behalf. On hearing of the impending suicide, the family call in the local Pastor (Richard Coleman), but he spends most of his time being fed whisky by the young maid (stage manager, Claire Marshall?).
Will Lady Sheila call for a piper and a pibroch, or the Last Post on a bugle? Can she possibly stop the bypass?
Rosemary Mowbray, winner of Best Actress in the Hills Festival of Theatre, was challenged by this massive part, but with only the odd fluff on the opening night, her acting style and delivery were first class. Whether in community or professional theatre, Ray Egan must be WA’s best portrayer of old dodderers. Even though the old, stiff upper lip was called for, Rosemary and Ray were the ideal Lord and Lady. The whole cast whether ‘upstairs or downstairs’, portrayed their characters perfectly.
Rachel Vonk ably assisted director, Douglas Sutherland-Bruce, who recently had a huge success with ‘My Fair Lady’. They squeezed every ounce of humour from the situations. Richard Coleman’s set design is stunning, the wood-panelled walls, the huge bay window looking out onto verdant parkland. Michael Hart beautifully lit the luxurious furniture and stately props - provided by Lesley and Samantha Sutton. Norman Kirton’s quality sound design which included delicate wood pigeons and ear shattering earth moving equipment, was perfectly operated, on cue, by Odette Vonk.
What can one say about Marjorie DeCaux’s costumes? They are always immaculate, beautifully styled and correct for the period. Here, Marjorie was at her best.
Often 50 year old scripts show their age badly, however because the image of the aristocracy hasn’t changed in centuries, you will enjoy laughing at this hilarious play as though it had been written yesterday. Strongly recommended and thoroughly deserving the above praise in each department.
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