Clem Attlee was the greatest reforming Prime Minister of the twentieth century. His work made us a civilised society.
In 1945 no one would have bet on Attlee carrying through his revolution he planned on. For a start, no one expected him to beat Churchill in the election. Once he was elected, no one expected him to achieve much.
There was a war-wrecked economy, and Attlee seemed such a modest and insignificant little man.
Yet Attlee left Britain a fundamentally different place. No other twentieth century Prime Minister, except perhaps Margaret Thatcher, did that.
By 1948 it was done. There was a National Health Service, education for everyone to the age of 15, unemployment pay. No one needed to die of a treatable illness for want of money to pay for the treatment, almost no one grew up unable to read and write, there was a social security system "from the cradle to the grave", there was full employment, the council house programme had pretty well abolished homelessness.Beveridge's five giants - want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness - were more or less slain, not to rise again until the Thatcher years.
It was an extraordinary achievement. No other Labour Prime Minister has achieved a fraction as much.
This play is about how it was done - and what sort of a man it was who did them. Clem Attlee was the most unlikely revolutionary you can imagine. He was called “a modest little man, with plenty to be modest about.” When he became Prime Minister, it was said, “an empty taxi drew up outside Downing Street and Clement Attlee got out of it.” He was said to have “all the charisma of a suburban bank manager.” He was a man of the upper middle class, educated at a public school.
This play explores the human being who changed the face of Britain. Why did he want to do it? And how come he succeeded when everyone else has failed?
No one is better qualified to write a play about Clem Attlee than author, journalist and playwright Francis Beckett, who wrote a widely acclaimed biography of Attlee, recently reissued for the fourth time. ("The triumph of this work is the author's success in passing on his love for Attlee" - Sion Simon, Spectator. "Beckett gets near to the essence of Attlee, and does so in an easy, flowing narrative" - Roy Jenkins, Independent. “A formidable work of scholarship, draws out the many facets, including the real subtlety, of his character” – John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons. “An engrossing personal biography of Attlee” – History Today. “Reveals the inner most man who is recognised by historians to be Britain’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister” – Neil Kinnock. “By illuminating how he accomplished his gargantuan task, Francis Beckett’s book finally gives the ‘little fellow’ his due. He has written a book that carefully delves into Attlee’s upper middle class but loving and open-minded family background.’ – Dennis Skinner MP.)
Francis Beckett’s latest book is “Jeremy Corbyn and the Strange Rebirth of Labour England” (Biteback, September 2018.
This is his sixth play. The first, “The Sons of Catholic Gentlemen”, was broadcast on LBC and won the Independent Radio Drama Productions annual award. Four more had London fringe productions and two of them are published by Samuel French.
Tuesday 15th January at 7:30pm
Wednesday 16th January at 7:30pm
Thursday 17th January at 7:30pm
Friday 18th January at 7:30pm
Saturday 19th January at 7:30pm
Tuesday 22nd January at 7:30pm
Wednesday 23rd January at 7:30pm
Thursday 24th January at 7:30pm
Friday 25th January at 7:30pm
Saturday 26th January at 7:30pm
Tickets: £12 | Concessions: £10
Running time: 75mins
Latecomers may not be admitted. Ticket purchases are non refundable. Concession prices apply to students; under 18s; pensioners; those on disability and unemployment benefits; Equity, BECTU & SDUK members; Portico Places cardholders. As a young venue we are still upgrading and developing the space, any additional donations are much appreciated and will be used towards improving the theatre even further and keeping the venue going in the long-term.
The Bread & Roses Theatre
68 Clapham Manor Street, Clapham SW4 6DZ, London
Ticket purchases are non refundable. Concession prices apply to students; under 18s; pensioners; those on disability and unemployment benefits; Equity, BECTU & SDUK members; Portico Places cardholders. As a young venue we are still upgrading and developing the space, any additional donations are much appreciated and will be used towards improving the theatre even further and keeping the venue going in the long-term.