In 1926, the General Strike saw over a million workers in the transport and heavy industry strike over worsening pay conditions for a total of 9 days. Called on by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the UK would find itself forced to a stand still, post WWI, with a stagnating economy burdened with the costs of war. With the nation’s press amongst other industries impacted as a result of the strikes, this in turn would determine who dominated the media landscape at the time, how it would be done and what news items would make the cut. The British Gazette – a government owned publication run by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time – Winston Churchill, and the BBC, an independent structure run by John Reith battling it out to reign supreme and be crowned the nation’s go to media outlet. Jack Thorne’s When Winston Went to War with the Wireless placing a closer gaze on these 9 days that would go on to shape and shake up UK history.
Stephen Campbell Moore’s tunnel visioned, insular, meticulous war veteran John Reith does what it takes to achieve the right balance between hard news and giving the people a platform to speak. Adrian Scarborough’s Winston Churchill hard headed and charismatic, pre his eventual turn as the UK’s Prime Minister, a strategist who you can clearly see is made out more so to lead the people, than perhaps run a newspaper. The two at loggerheads to ultimately bring an end to the strikes, navigating how best to do so. Thorne writes a historically rich piece, one that understands the landscape of the media well and its ability to influence the many. A century on from these events and we find ourselves a year into current strike action, so this connecting us to events of old and the recurrent cycles we find ourselves in. Katy Rudd directs a busy yet steady production, one that looks beyond the work lives of John and Winston and attempts to humanise – important as we see how those around these figures react and are impacted by how the world moves – but can at times be a lot to keep up with! A historically compact evening.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
When Winston Went to War with the Wireless is currently showing until Saturday 29th July 2023 at the Donmar Warehouse. To find out more about the production, visit here…