Festival 2012

Anthony Andrews, Nicholas Le Prevost, Imogen Stubbs

A Marvellous Year for Plums

World Premiere by Hugh Whitemore

A Marvellous Year for Plums

A Marvellous Year for Plums

Festival Theatre

11 May - 2 Jun 2012

Overview

4 Star Rating
The Times

Britain in 1956: the Suez Crisis.

Prime Minister Anthony Eden, described by a colleague as ‘half mad baronet and half beautiful woman’, is faced with the terrible possibility of leading his country into war. His health is collapsing. His friends, colleagues and opponents, among them Hugh Gaitskell and Ian Fleming and his wife Ann, are facing crises of their own, crises of conscience and crises of the heart.

Hugh Whitemore’s new play is a true epic: a suspenseful thriller, an achingly romantic love story and a fascinating examination of a flashpoint in our history which still resonates today.

What is the cost of an ‘illegal’ war?

‘a resonant, engrossing tale of sexual hedonism, political sophistry, Anglo/Arab relations and
Civil Service whistle-blowing’

4 Star Rating Daily Express

Hugh Whitemore’s plays include Stevie, Pack of Lies, Breaking the Code, The Best of Friends and A Letter of Resignation. His screenplays include 84, Charing Cross Road and The Gathering Storm which won an Emmy Award for Best Script, the American Writers’ Guild Award and was named the Best Single Drama by
the Broadcasting Press Guild in 2003.

Anthony Andrews plays Anthony Eden. Theatre credits include The Letter, Woman in White, My Fair Lady, Ghost and most recently Bully Boy. Television and Film BAFTA and Golden Globe Best Actor winner Brideshead Revisited and most recently Birdsong and The Kings Speech.

Nicholas Le Prevost plays Hugh Gaitskell. Theatre credits include Festival 2010’s The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound and Festival 09’s The Last Cigarette; Dandy Dick and 27. Numerous television credits include Cranford II and Doc Martin.

Imogen Stubbs plays Ann Fleming. Theatre credits include the Olivier Award nominated Salt, Root and Roe, Little Eyolf, Private Lives, The Glass Menagerie and The Duchess of Malfi. Television credits include Injustice and New Tricks. She was last at Chichester in Uncle Vanya (1994).

Philip Franks’ productions for Chichester include The Deep Blue Sea, Rattigan’s Nijinsky, The Master Builder, Separate Tables, Collaboration, Taking Sides and The Life and Adventures of
Nicholas Nickleby. He is also an actor.

Listen to the pre-show talk: A Marvellous Year Ahead

Supported by the A Marvellous Year for Plums Commissioning Circle.

A Marvellous Year for Plums is sponsored by

Festival 2012

Reynolds Fine Furniture

Reynolds Fine Furniture


Reviews

Mail on Sunday
4 Star Rating

When Basil Fawlty Went To War

The 1956 Suez Crisis and subsequent wimpish withdrawal of our troops from Egypt was an embarrassing fiasco for Britain and a personal disaster for Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who never recorded politically.

Hugh Whitemore’s swirling waltz of a play on the crisis , A Marvellous Year For Plums, is a blend of affairs both foreign and extra-material. It is part history lesson, part love story.

At centre stage is Eden, who, behind his upper-crust civility, was prone to Basil Fawlty-ish rages. Finely played by Anthony Andrews, one minute Eden rails against ‘that filthy Gypo’ Nasser, the next he is benignly serving cocktails at home.

The Edens’ friends include James Bond novelist Ian Fleming (Simon Dutton – a joy with a wand-sized cigarette-holder). Fleming’s flighty wife, Ann (Imogen Stubbs), is having an affair with Hugh Gaitskell (Nicholas Le Prevost), leader of the Labour Party. Stubbs and Le Prevost are excellent as the lovers, the latter looking gloriously sheepish.

Eden and Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd (David Yelland) are both prone to embarrassing blubbing and underhand manoeuvres.

But Anthony Nutting – the voice of moral conscience who resigned as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs over Suez – comes over as a terrible prig.

The play has lots of formal dancing and period music, but also the overhead scream of jets. Simon Higlett’s suitably decrepit set suggests grotty imperial decay. Philip Franks fluidly directs many short scenes, though these can be a bit overcluttered with research.

The impression left by this enjoyable, large-canvas picture of a nation in crisis is all too horribly familiar: a rudderless Britain spiralling just above the plughole.

 

The Times
4 Star Rating

Here’s our Prime Minister fuming at an Arab leader: ’A dreadful man – shifty, dangerous…filthy gyppo.’ He wants him killed or at least deposed, and reckons Churchill would have ‘set the Jews on him’.

It is 1956: Anthony Eden, a sick man haunted by a contemptuous father who intermittently stalks the stage as a ghost, plunges Britain into the Suez crisis over Nasser’s nationalisation of the vital sea canal. Our troops illegally invade, backed by Israel and France; we are forced to back down by the US and lose not only face but, as the Labour leaders Hugh Gaitskell said, moral authority. Eden, his tense fragility movingly evoked by Anthony Andrews in a period-perfect moustache, will lie to the House and resign.

Hugh Whitemore’s play sets the Suez amid a densely researched tangle of high-society relationships of the kind that today would be rightly intruded upon by a rougher press. Ian Fleming, a Chequer’s guest, is played by Simon Dutton as a permatanned porn-hound, his erring wife the irresistible Imogen Stubbs. The Conservative ministers are Selwyn Lloyd (David Yelland) and Martin Hutson strong as Anthony Nutting, who resigned with honour, later blew the whistle in print on the whole disgrace and was never forgiven by the Tory party.

I am no 1950s scholar, so it is a tribute to Whitemore’s unobtrusive weaving of information that when Gaitskell (Nicholas Le Prevost, brilliantly lookalike) makes his great speech condemning Eden I immediately thought: ‘Crikey! What’ll this mean for Ann Fleming’s friendship with Clarissa Eden, given that Ann is sleeping with Gaitskell?’ Indeed, there is a frosty little tea at the Ritz – and the reconciliation when Eden borrows Fleming’s house in Jamaica to recover.

Some might prefer a more politically focused and bitter piece, but Whitemore’s concentration on the human follies and affections makes a play that will last. Philip Frank’s direction is swift, episodic but clear, with useful projections as scenes change.  The script offers sly modern parallels and delightful ironies. Schoolboys at Fettes hiss Gaitskellfor opposing the war, the French leader avenges Britain’s dereliction by keeping us out of Europe. Best of all, when the broken Eden goes on a retirement cruise his steward (this, it seems, is also true) is John Prescott. Their imaginary conversation is great.

 

Daily Express
4 Star Rating

The year in question is 1956. But Hugh Whitemore’s play has more to do with Britain’s political flora than the cultivation of prunus domestica.

Described as “half mad baronet, half beautiful woman”, Prime Minister Anthony Eden presided over a country in transition. His Edwardian cultural baggage made it hard for him to navigate the second half of the 20th century.

Decency was dead; infidelity, adultery and political chicanery were rife. And it all came to a head when Egypt’s President Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal precipitating the Suez Crisis.

Anthony Andrews delivers a performance of stature; whether fulminating about Nasser, recounting anecdotes about fellow politicians or unleashing a howl of anguish over his untenable position, he conveys Eden’s bewilderment, strengths and weaknesses with veracity.

And he is by no means alone; Simon Dutton’s Ian Fleming, Nicholas Le Prevost’s Hugh Gaitskell and David Yelland’s Selwyn Lloyd are all rounded characters. The women are equally persuasive from Abigail Cruttenden’s stoical Clarissa Eden to Imogen Stubbs’s adulterous Ann Fleming – described memorably as “the sort of woman who plays cards before luncheon”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Anthony Nutting (Martin Hutson) is a prototype Robin Cook – resigning in disgust at the Anglo/French conspiracy to encourage Israel to invade Egypt before going in to act as “peacekeepers”.

In a production superbly orchestrated by director Philip Franks, Whitemore juggles the notion that deception is Bottom of Form

contagious and that broken trust – private or public – can never be repaired.

The play fizzes with detail. The plots to kill Nasser are knitted into the emergence of James Bond.

History has been unkind to Eden. Whitemore rebalances the scales through a resonant, engrossing tale of sexual hedonism, political sophistry, Anglo/Arab relations and Civil Service whistle-blowing. As Shirley Bassey sang, it’s “just a little bit of history repeating”.

 


The Company

Creative Team

Gabrielle Dawes

Casting Director

Gabrielle Dawes

Philip Franks

Ditrector

Philip Franks

Simon Higlett

Designer

Simon Higlett

Matt McKenzie

Sound Designer

Matt McKenzie

Matthew Scott

Music

Matthew Scott

Mark Smith

Choreographer

Mark Smith

Dick Straker

Video Designer

Dick Straker

James Whiteside

Lighting Designer

James Whiteside

Ian William Galloway

Video Designer

Ian William Galloway


Cast

Anthony Andrews

Anthony Andrews

Sir Anthony Eden

Nicholas Le Prevost

Nicholas Le Prevost

Hugh Gaitskell

Imogen Stubbs

Imogen Stubbs

Ann Fleming

Abigail Cruttenden

Abigail Cruttenden

Clarissa Eden

Olivia Darnley

Olivia Darnley

Lauren / Scientist / Waitress / Dancer / Lady Violet Bonham Carter

Simon Dutton

Simon Dutton

Ian Fleming

Daniel Easton

Daniel Easton

Prescott / Gardener / M.I.6. Agent / Millard / Philip / Waiter

Martin Hutson

Martin Hutson

Anthony Nutting

James Simmons

James Simmons

Sir William Eden / Waiter / Gazier / Mollet

David Yelland

David Yelland

Selwyn Lloyd



Booking Info

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (including one interval of 20 minutes)

Tickets:

Previews/Press Nights
D £14 C £22 B £28 A £33

Evenings/Matinees
D £15 C £23 B £32 A £36

Discounts and concessions available
Terms & Conditions



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