Shared from the 4/2/2017 American Press eEdition

Churchill brought to life at McNeese in one-man play


Special to the American Press

Andrew Edlin, portraying Winston Churchill, performed in a one-man play at the Central School Arts and Humanities Center as part of the McNeese Banners program.

The greatest statesman and leader in the history of Great Britain was resurrected Thursday and reconfirmed his wit, wisdom and courage.

As part of the McNeese Banners program, Andrew Edlin portrayed Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in the Benjamin C. Mount Auditorium at the Central School Arts and Humanities Center.

The auditorium was the perfect throwback venue for Edlin’s one-man play. The setting was a replication of Churchill’s underground bunker, from which he led Britain during World War II.

The stage was minimal — desk, chair, podium, and a cabinet filled with brandy, whisky and champagne. Churchill made no apologies during his life for his reputation as a sipper; his retort when questioned about drinking: “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”

Edlin has Churchill down pat. Churchill died at 90 as this writer’s generation was beginning college, but his speeches and voluminous books and writings are a monument to his intelligence and industry.

Edlin begins at the beginning. Churchill’s father was a pompous, vain English lord and Army officer who seemingly had no time and certainly no plaudits for his adoring son.

Churchill, according to Edlin, longed for a kind word from his father and only recalled one instance of slight adoration. Life caught up with Randolph Churchill, who died at 44 of syphilis.

Churchill’s mother, the American heiress Jennie Jerome Churchill, remarried twice — the second time to a man younger than Winston.

Edlin’s countenance and almost monotone delivery encapsulated what old film remains of Churchill’s speeches. His inflection was slight, but his delivery was spot on.

Churchill was prime minister of Great Britain twice, 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. In his first administration, Churchill rallied England after Germany swept Western Europe and bombed England nightly.

Churchill taunted Adolf Hitler, saying the bombing would have succeeded had the German leader bombed the airfields and aircraft industries rather than London.

All that did, said Churchill, was make the nation more determined to hold out. Rather than recite Churchill’s most famous speech in its entirety — delivered to the House of Commons in 1940 — Edlin gave three delicious tidbits separately.

That speech is memorable and greatly condensed here: “We will fight on the beaches; we will never surrender.” That speech’s conclusion begs America, again reluctant to rescue Europe from Germany, to enter the war.

As an aside, one of the best books about war-beset England is “Citizens of London,” by Lynne Olson. England was slowly starving to death as its valiant Royal Air Force barely kept Germany at bay.

At dinner on Dec. 7, 1941, with U.S. Ambassador to England John Winant and Averall Harriman, Churchill’s butler whispered to Churchill that the Japanese had bombed “America.”

Churchill, not believing his ears, followed his butler into the kitchen, where the radio was on full blast with the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing and America’s declaration of war.

Then, according to Olson, Churchill joined hands with Winant and Harriman and the three men danced a jig. A little out of character for the stoic Churchill, but accounting for the historic occasion, certainly more than justified.

Edlin’s play would not have been complete without one of Churchill’s most famous retorts, that delivered to Bessie Braddock, one of the first women in the House of Commons.

Braddock said: “Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk.”

Churchill said: “Bessie, my dear, you are ugly and what’s worse, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”

Callous certainly, but humorous in context, if not in application, and Edlin delivered it to a full roar from an appreciative house.

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