Based on a true story, Happy Warriors is a new comedy play by a brand new writer at ninety one year old, James Hugh Macdonald .
A farmhouse in a garden on a hillside in Topusko, a small country town in an area of Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia) liberated from the occupying German army by Marshal Tito’s Communist guerrilla forces, known as Partisans, towards the end of the Second World War.
At a time when any success against the Germans was rare, even a campaign by Communist guerrillas had been welcome news to Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, and the hope arose that this front might expand and sap Hitler’s strength. So, having assessed the Partisans and convinced that they were indeed fighting hard against the common enemy, Winston Churchill took a personal interest in sending a military mission to Tito to encourage him and to supply him with the munitions of war. The Allied armies fighting in Italy reached central Italy in 1943 and aid to the Partisans was organised from a depot in Bari.
The Prime Minister’s Personal Representative, headed the mission to Tito. Winston, seeing a clear line of action, then sent his son, Randolph Churchill, who had the rank of Major, to join the mission. Randolph was well known for his capacity to arouse antagonism and for his generous estimate of his own abilities. Before long he was heard to complain that he lacked companions of his own social and intellectual standing and began to press for his old acquaintance, celebrated writer Evelyn Waugh, to be posted in. Waugh possessed an independent character and experience that seemed valuable for this harsh region; and although in London his relationship with Randolph Churchill had often been stormy, nevertheless, Waugh, by then a Captain in the Royal Horse Guard and awaiting posting, was asked for to fill the gap. After protracted negotiation, since Waugh was known as a difficult character, the posting was agreed; something which both men quickly came to regret. The play reveals a side of war where men are billeted together only to discover their incompatibility is almost worse than the war itself.
The presence of an unwilling, angry, belligerent young cook, forced by the Partisans to do menial work before being allowed to join the guerrilla force, adds fuel to the atmosphere of hilarious antagonism.
What could possibly go right?
Happy Warriors plays Upstairs at the Gatehouse March 28th – April 22nd 2018.