Brighton

And here’s the surprise.

Two men.

One stage.

And a helluva lot of words.

As well as one of our favourite sections from Haw Haw – the IRA and the British Army – performed as part of our first rehearsed reading in Brighton on July 4th 2016.

Best foot forward!

Haw Haw Section

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Poster Boys

So, the idea is that Haw Haw wraps himself in the flag, while at the same time he’s overshadowed by the Swastika of his destiny (as it were).

Question is, do we look threatening enough?

haw-haw-poster

It’s not a facile question. The issue of how Haw Haw is presented is a huge one. The poster and flyer design, as above gives enough illustration of the story, as far as we’re concerned, but not necessarily the flavour of the piece itself. It’s tone, it’s ineffable quality.

Is this too much to ask of a poster? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a tall order. Of course, time will tell as to whether this is  the most suitable image we can use. But for new…

Yeah, for now we’re pretty happy.

Spot The Difference 2

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, kindly compare this…

Haw Haw’s final broadcast. He may have had a drop to drink.

…with this…

Churchill announces the end of war in Europe. He may also have had a drink

 

There seems to be a certain predominant style. And it wasn’t just brandy. The reason – or one of them – that the BBC was affectionatly nown as “Auntie” was that the microphones of the time required one to speak clearly and slowly: “as if you were talking to you favourite, but sightly deaf, aunt”.

One of the many curious facts I’ve tried to lever into the script, and Ross has tried to lever back out. The difference between history and trivia is sometimes just the size of your lever.

While we’re on the subject of radio (fittingly enough), here’s a fascinating radio documentary/discussion regarding Haw Haw’s trial chaired by Clive Anderson (thanks to local historian Peter Chrisp for pointing this out to us):

Lord Haw Haw Trial Documentary

Should he have been hanged. It’s one of the central questions of “Rossie” and “Dougie”.

Did Joyce’s taking of a British passport – albeit with false declarations of his place of brth mean that he enjoyed the protection of the monarch and therefore owed allgiance in respect of that protection? Or did the British state have no claim upon him as he wasn’t its subject in the first place?

Write your answers on one side of the paper provided. Use the margins to show your workings. Time starts now…

East Chiltington

east-chiltington

A 900 year old church in the middle of leafy Sussex, just next to the former home of John Bird, satirist and playwright.

The tree on the left is about a millenium old.

Into this idyll comes four rag-tag artists: myself and Ross, James Weisz and cameraman Nick Driftwood.

43 unsuspecting locals appear to see what we’ve done to the old place. Not much, just recreated the life of a fascist propagandist.

With me raised up behind the pulpit, Ross at the reader’s point below (frankly, it’s where he belongs!), a makeshift bar at the back beyond the font and the late spring sun setting upon us, we recreate something of the spirit of the Blitz in a corner of an English field that will be forever, well, just that.

No dead, no wounded. Though one young lady had to leave early due to an overindulgence in Elderberry wine.

Due to technical issues, a section of the video can’t be uploaded onto this site, but can be made available for the curious*

But if you weren’t there. Why not?

More seriously, this was one of the more pleasant surprises of the experience – discovering a venue that no one knows about yet manages to draw in nearly fifty locals on a mid-week evening. All through the parish pump of a few posters and local gossip. Our thanks to Mike Simmonds for knowing where to put the posters and who to gossip with.

In many ways this is the “England on the Lea” that Joyce would wax lyrical over. The England that rejected him but held a place in his heart (or at least his heart’s imagination) nonetheless. Questions arise: ifs and buts.

If Joyce hadn’t been forced out of Ireland, or if he’d found acceptance with the British Arm or the Foreign Office or academia – at which he was generally seen to be brilliant if somewhat eccentrically over committed to anti Semitic thought (not the only British writer or academic of the time to be so inclined – Virginia Wolfe, T S Eliot, John Maynard Keynes all spring to mind), then could he have settled somewhere like here?.

Could he have been happy to make his name as Professor Joyce, linguist and historian, or as an educational psychologist (these routes were open to him)? Would there then not have been a Haw Haw?

It’s the “Kill Hitler as a baby” question; is history made up of the acts of individuals or does the churn of events simply bring individuals like this to the surface? If it hadn’t been Joyce, would there have been someone else in his place – whose story we’d be telling in  a leafy field near Lewes in 2016?

Do we master our own destiny, or are we the subjects of other forces, unseen until hindsight makes them clear?

And what does that make us, who tell the story? Do we have an objectivity on history, or will we forever see it through a lens clouded by ourselves. A historical glaucoma? If so, do we bring more of Ross and Doug into the play, and less “Rossie” and “Dougie”?

If you don’t now what I man by that, maybe you really should have been there.

 

*email hawhawplay@hotmail.com or leave a request on this blog

 

The Humbug of Hamburg

It’s hard for us nowadays to realize the strength of influence that radio had in the world at the time of Haw Haw’s broadcasts. This was a device that could bring sounds from anywhere else on the globe directly into your home. A form of communication that once was the stuff of fantasy and nightmare. The BBC had only been going for 20 years by the time WWII came around: in many ways the radio was as unprecedented and ubiquitous an item in the family home as the internet is now.

Seeve out of ten listeners retuned from the BBC to German radio to listen to the bradcast prefaced with the all sign “Germany Calling” This wasn’t simply idle curioisity. haw Haw became a staple of British wartime lfe and, as such, was considered a genuine danger to British morale.

However, the government decided not to suppress his broadcasts nor outlaw listening to him. At one level, such a move ran counter to the notion of fighting for freedom; at another, it was simply impractical, it would have been impossible to enforce.

(By contrast, listening to the BBC was outlawed in Nazi Germany. An apocryphal tale tells us of a German mother whose son went missing in an air raid over England. She presumed him dead until eight individual neighbours knocked on her door to inform her that his name was among a list of PoWs broadcast by the BBC. She informed on all eight to the authorities. That’s how you enforce it. make peopleenforce themselves.)

Instead of banning him, the British did what they do best (or at least, most naturally) when faced with a threat. They made a joke of it.

hawhaw-history-today

The “Haw Haw” name, ceated by Jonas Barrington of the Daily Express, caught 0n in the most unexpected ways. Haw Haw became the pinchline to music hall jokes, animated cartoons porrayed him as a donkey, he bacme the basis for a Sherlock Holmes movie (“The Voice Of Terror”), and there was even this little ditty playing on the radio.

The Western Brothers with their comic ditty…

They don’t make ’em like that any more.