The 91 year old writer spoke to Love London Love Culture about his first play Happy Warriors now playing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse…
Hi James, thank you so much for talking to Love London Love Culture. Could you tell us a little more about what Happy Warriors is all about? There are two stories. The first is the clash of two highly capable, highly egotistical but very different men, forced to live together in a remote farmhouse in circumstances they do not control. Events give one a chance to get the upper hand and how that chance works out is what we watch. The second is the story of their cook-general, also a Partisan but forced by her comrades to be the servant of the two English officers because she speaks some (rather poor) English and also to teach her a lesson – although now a Communist she is the daughter of a wealthy landowner and although she has rejected her family she is still a naturally uppity person. She does all she can to antagonise the English officers, whom she regards as dinosaur representatives of monopoly capitalism, in the hope they will get her sent away. She tries and tries and tries. In the background war continues and local actions reach to the farmhouse.
How did the idea for the play come about? This idea came from reading diaries of participants in the Yugoslav guerilla war. One Evelyn Waugh found Randolph Churchill’s bombastic conversation unbearable and invented a stratagem to shut him up. What happened next? Go to Happy Warriors to find out.
Happy Warriors is based on a true story. How did you first discover the story and what made you think it would make a good play? The core of the play is a gift from God to a playwright: one selfish and strong-minded and celebrated person clashing with another, quite different but equally self assertive and if anything even more celebrated person. These central facts may be found in diaries. But the way the story works out is invented, and so is the character of Zora, the cook-general misplaced Partisan fighter.
What would you like for audiences to take away from Happy Warriors? The play is a comedy, Audiences have quickly picked that up and laughed heartily and frequently, commenting later on the amount and the variety of the humour. This is milk and honey to an author.
How are you feeling about seeing the play being performed? How do I feel? Humble and grateful. Putting on a play commercially involves first the support of bystanders and then a team of highly skilled persons, each of whom is essential, all of whom must work together. But my work was done when the enterprise began. I have been and now am only a grateful spectator. I have attended all the performances of the play so far. The three actors are still making me laugh out loud, every time, and even, at one point in the story, making me weep.
Happy Warriors continues to play at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until the 22nd April. For more information visit: http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/happy-warriors