Chamberlain: Peace In Our Time, Review

Chamberlain Peace in Our Time Cast

★★★★

Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Venue 209)| Aug 15-­19 |15:00| £7.50 – 11

Searchlight Theatre are back at the Fringe Festival once again casting their spotlight on prominent historical characters of the last century. This simple but spectacular performance takes us to the Cabinet Room at Number 10 Downing Street. The focus is on Chamberlain’s sombre moments of introspection and reflection as the clock ticks ever closer to 11am and his BBC broadcast of the declaration of war on Germany. Juxtaposed against these scenes the staging shifts to the BBC and their preparation before the Prime Minister’s announcement playing “light and positive” music.

This production emphasises the question was Chamberlain “the right man for the wrong time” and unfairly judged by history for his quest to seek peace? The acting from David Leeson and Colin Alexander plays to their strengths.

This performance does not need any bells and whistles and the simple staging emphasises the quality of the acting on display. Holding your attention with an intense delivery, Leeson draws you in making the tension in the Cabinet Room palpable. He effectively portrays the anguish between Chamberlain’s desire and strivings for peace against the announcement that would lead to “terrible and numberless deaths”, with some superb character acting.

Colin Alexander takes on two roles during this production, firstly as the aid to the Prime Minister and secondly as the role of BBC singer. The latter giving him the opportunity to display his well-honed singing skills under the pretext of the “light and positive” music the BBC were playing on the airwaves. This brings an element of nostalgia to the performance with some recognisable classics of the age and offers a refreshing break from the gravitas of the adjoining scenes.  

The production delivers a historically accurate performance, well written to combine informative historical fact without making you feel like you are attending a lecture. The spoken dialogue naturally incorporates integral elements of ad verbum from Chamberlin’s key speeches to great effect.

The political ambitions of the time are also deftly touched upon, as Churchill, an ever present character, loiters in the wings with his desire for power. A fact that does not go unrecognised by Chamberlain. This is emphasised in the final act as Chamberlain ushers in Churchill from the anti-room, post broadcast and offers him a seat … his own.