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.

Turnabout

William Joyce was captured a Flensburg, near the German border, on 28th May 1945.

That’s the prosaic description.

Truth with Joyce was always convoluted, and the nature of his capture was no exception. He was stopped by two off-duty soldiers as they collected firewood. Joyce was supposedly in hiding but had stormed out after yet another argument with Margaret over her affair. (Long story, different play).

They had no idea who they were dealing with, until this strange man in the woods started to give them a long and excited description of the various trees that surrounded them. Ever the polymath, ever the show-off, ever the mouth on legs, Joyce couldn’t stop himself from talking. Finally they recognised the voice. Lt. Geoffrey Perry shot him through the buttocks when, having been challenged, Joyce seemed to go for a gun. In fact, he was trying to show the soldiers his fake papers.

Yup, through the buttocks. Both cheeks. One shot.

If this wasn’t humiliating enough, Geoffrey Perry was in fact  Horst Pinschewer, a German Jew who had fled the Nazis and ended up joining the British army. He ended up being one of the main founders of Die Welt newspaper.

So an Anglo Irish American who broadcast for Hitler  was brought to trial by a German Jew with an assumed name. Perry/Pinschewer was also the first Allied soldier to broadcast from Hamburg. And the gun he shot him with. German. Confiscated from a prisoner a few days earlier.

At one point, we thought of making part of the play about Pinschewer

But who’d believe it?

800px-the_capture_of_william_joyce_germany_1945_bu6910

Are you sitting comfortably?

And here’s us in Bexhill, aka Burns Night

After a hiatus brought on by all sorts of reasons far too dull to go into, we finally made it to Mulligans, that fine Irish hostelry in Bexhill.

Pictures of Spike everywhere. And there we are, to be sure…

 

Now the eagle-eyed among you will notice we’re sat down for this one.

Except when Ross is standing.

This is due to the fact that Devaney managed to give himself second degree burns that morning in the world’s most middle-class accident.

Scolded himself with a cafetiere.

Still, a revised script; a nice wee audience, many of whom could still stand (unlike Doug) by the end of the evening and Haw Haw managed to go on.

The even more eagle-eyed will note this was our third performance. “Where’s the other two, lads?”, we hear you ask. Now that’s all part of the grand scheme as we go back to the…well, past…

 

 

Across The Water

I am Irish. Well, half-Irish. Dad from County Clare. Ross is English, as English as they come. William Joyce, as Wikipedia has noted, was Anglo-Irish. But his was a curious mix. For one thing, he always saw himself as English. To be Anglo-Irish was hardly the thing of glamour it is today, let alone being Irish.

Instead, the land of Joyce’s youth was riven by revolution. the 1916 uprising – taking place when William was a mere 10 years old – saw murder and counter murder on a frightening scale. Joyce was only a lad when he saw  a policeman dead in the street. Now William had always been a contrary child. Arguing with the Bishop over whether or not his own (English) mother was gong to hell. Trying  to hypnotize his schoolmates. Marching up and down in the playground.

So when it came to deciding a side, as indeed he had to, naturally this contrary child painted his colours red white and blue rather than green white and gold. He was an Anglo in Ireland. His carefree (careless?) hanging out with the Black and Tans immediately marked him out among his schoolmates and so when a local priest was  assassinated, the rumour went out that it was William who had set him up for the shooting.

Thus it was that a 16 year old boy on his way home from school was the target for an IRA sniper. Only William went a different way home.

Of such things histories are made.

He may have avoided the bullet, but he was still exiled. The IRA made it clear that young William wouldn’t get a second reprieve and so off he headed to hs beloved, idealised England.

“England on the Lea” he called it, on the plane coming back from Germany as he faced the death penalty. The England of Milton, Keats and Dryden.

Thing was, in England, he was an Irishman among the Anglos.

For me, being half Irish is something of pride. Everyone’s a Mick on the 17th March – Guinness have seen to that. But it also means memories of the ’70s. Of thick Paddy jokes. Of pub bombings and suspicion. Of no blacks, no dogs, no Irish. Of not fitting in.

For Ross, being English is a matter of not having to care about such things. He simply is.

So guess who’s playing Haw Haw?

Spot the Difference

 

 

 

 

Who Who?

That’s the question we’re most often asked the moment we mention William Joyce. The facts can be baldly stated, just ask Wikipedia:

William Brooke Joyce (24 April 1906 – 3 January 1946), nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, was an American-born IrishBritish Fascist politician and Nazi propaganda broadcaster to the United Kingdom during World War II. He was convicted of one count of high treason in 1945. The Court of Appeal and the House of Lords upheld his conviction. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison by Albert Pierrepoint.

But the facts of Joyce’s life -like those of any of our existences – are infinitely more complex than can be contained in a solitary paragraph. For one thing, although he was the last man to be hanged in this country for high treason, his love of Britain –  or more specifically England “on the Lea” – was such that he had been marked out for assassination by the IRA as a mere teenager, had been rejected from the Foreign Office for being “too keen”, and when asked if he had any experience in combat when joining the German equivalent of the Home Front calmly announced “Yes – British army”.

Not your standard traitor.

In fact, some claimed -and still claim – he wasn’t a traitor at all. Having been born in New York, and thus an American citizen, it has been argued that he owed no allegiance to this country  whatsoever and that  his actions – though certainly morally questionable – were those of a man free to make the choices he made encumbered by notions of loyalty to Britain.

Not that the jury saw it that way. Nor the Court of Appeal. Nor the House of Lords

It is not for us to make apologies for Joyce. He was a fascist, a vicious anti-semite, an apologist for Hitler. He was also an intellectual, a gifted teacher and an electrifying orator who inspired loyalty from the most unlikely of quarters. In part, the story of William Joyce isn’t so much one of treachery as of the obverse side of that particular coin: loyalty.

It’s a story not only mired in the conflicts of the past but also steeped in the questions of today. In an age of radicalisation and of British teenagers joining jihadist organisations, the conundrum of Joyce has to be addressed – which is the greater loyalty: loyalty to family,  to country, to religion, to an ideal, or simply loyalty to oneself?

And it’s a story we’re hoping to tell is slightly more detail than Wikipedia.