Performer Ravin J Ganatra talks about starring in ‘Winston Went to War with the Wireless’ to play at Donmar Warehouse
The media shapes how we learn about the issues of the day and dictates how we all manoeuvre. A powerful tool that forms ways of thinking and how our societies run. Almost a century ago, the General Strike of 1926 would grind many industries to a halt, a dispute that would see union workers demand better pay conditions lasting just over a week – with this, only a couple of news outlets – The British Gazette led by soon to be UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and The BBC, led by John Reith operating at the time. With one ending that same year, and the other going on to influence many up until the today, parallels to the early 20th century couldn’t be clearer. Drawing on this particular part of British history, writer Jack Thorne presents When Winston Went to War with the Wireless to show at the Donmar Warehouse from the 2nd to 26th June. Ahead of the production, performer Ravin J Ganatra talks about starring as influential figures, the Archbishop of Canterbury and J.C.C. Davidson – a British civil servant and Conservative party politician.
Hi Ravin, you’ll be starring in When Winston Went to War with the Wireless from 2nd June to 29th July at the Donmar Warehouse. How are you feeling ahead of the production?
Super excited and blessed to be a part of a great play by Jack Thorne – as soon as I read it, I knew I had to be in it.
When Winston Went to War with the Wireless is ‘a story about the truth’, as Britain grinds to a halt in May of 1926, The Great General Strike takes hold. With printing press shut down the only sources of news are the government’s ‘The British Gazette’ – edited by Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill and the independent, fledgling ‘British Broadcasting Company’ (BBC) led by John Reith. What follows is a fierce battle from control of the news and who gets to define the truth. What drew you to take part in the production?
The story is truly fascinating and so relevant to today – especially in the current climate where governments across the globe try to wade in to control the news narrative – there is a huge debate in the UK regarding the Governments relationship with the BBC and the current conservative appointed Chair – the very question of independence is hard to ignore and the parallels painfully apparent.
You play the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury – Randall Davidson and J.C.C. Davidson – a British civil servant and Conservative party politician. What has been your approach towards taking on both roles?
My approach has been to find and live the truth of the script. The 2 characters I play are so far from who I am but I have to live in their space and their truth – It’s an absolute privilege to have this opportunity.
The production is written by Jack Thorne, with direction by Katy Rudd. It stars yourself, Stephen Campbell Moore, Haydn Gwynne, Mariam Haque, Kevin McMonagle, Luke Newberry, Seb Philpott, Elliot Rennie, Laura Rogers, Shubham Saraf and Adrian Scarborough. How have you all worked together to bring the production to life?
We have worked remarkably well considering we have only known each other 3 weeks. Katy has created a safe space for us to explore the text and I find myself raising my game as the bar is being set very high by the other actors. The use of foley in theatre is new to me but boy does it work well.
What have you learned/taken away from creating the production?
Never to take our own freedoms for granted. In current times there is a growing need to work together – to create a sense of support and solidarity – to see things from another’s perspective.
What can audiences expect from the production?
An informative and entertaining insight into the temperature of 1926 Britain and the parallels we can see in today’s society.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the production?
An open mind and a generosity of spirit – Love thy Neighbour.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
When Winston Went to War with the Wireless Will play from Friday 2nd until Monday 26th June 2023 at the Donmar Warehouse. To find out more about the production, visit here…