Review: A Modest Little Man, at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Production with a fringe rawness focuses on backroom arguments between Clement Attlee and rival Herbert Morrison

Thursday, 17th October 2019 — By Jack Courtney O’Connor

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Lynne O’Sullivan in A Modest Little Man. Photo: Ivan Berg

CLEMENT Attlee, who led the post-war Labour government, was a member of the establishment.

He was an unassuming man lacking charisma, a mild-mannered cricket-loving Englishman and yet he led the most progressive left-wing government in any post-war liberal-democratic country.

Written by the “old Labour Romantic” Francis Beckett, whose father William was imprisoned during the Second World War for being a black shirt, the mainstay of the play are the backroom arguments between Attlee (Roger Rose) and his rival Herbert Morrison (Steven Maddocks) who is supported by the posh and snobbish Hugh Dalton (Silas Hawkins).

One can draw many comparisons with today’s politicians – Maddocks’s portrayal of Morrison is reminiscent of Boris Johnson’s guru Dominic Cummings and Rose’s quiet and dignified Attlee of Jeremy Corbyn.

One of the lines Morrison’s character jokes about is Churchill’s rallying call “make Britain great again.” Sound familiar?

Hawkins also turns in a good Winston Churchill and the talented character actor Clive Greenwood plays King George VI, the Welsh firebrand Nye Bevan and Ernest Bevin to great effect.

Lynne O’Sullivan plays Violet Attlee, Clem’s supportive, if at times, exasperated wife and Scottish actress Jessica Bichard is Nye’s wife Jennie Lee.

Director Owain Rose’s production has a fringe rawness about it that makes it real as opposed to the slickness of West End productions.


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