Madrid, 1937 – the height of the Spanish Civil War. In a hotel during the bombardment by Franco’s artillery, two American war correspondents fall passionately in love.
Around them, people are struggling, often comically, to survive; and the idealism of the young men who came to fight with the International Brigades is contrasted with the ruthlessness of civil war.
Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls is the great classic of the Spanish Civil War. The Fifth Column too, a life and death story of counter-espionage, speaks with his own inimitable voice.
Based on real events, and real people – Hemingway was there, with his lover Martha Gellhorn, one of the first women war correspondents – the play appears in London for the first time and marks the 80th year since the Spanish Civil War began.
The Observer on The Cutting of the Cloth at Southwark Playhouse:
“A production so exact that you can smell it. The thrill is in the documentary detail, marvellously realised in Tricia Thorns’s terrific production.”
Variety on London Wall at the Finborough and St James Theatres:
“Her beautifully judged, immaculately acted revival isn’t just theatrical archaeology, it’s a treat”
ERNEST HEMINGWAY (Playwright) did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer in the twentieth century, and for his efforts he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. Hemingway wrote in short, declarative sentences and was known for his tough, terse prose. Publication of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms immediately established Ernest Hemingway as one of the greatest literary lights of the twentieth century. As part of the expatriate community in the 1920’s Paris, the former journalist and World War I ambulance driver began a career that led to international fame. Hemingway was an aficionado of bullfighting and big-game hunting, and his main protagonists were always men and women of courage and conviction, who suffered unseen scars, both physical and emotional. He covered the Spanish Civil War, portraying it in fiction in his brilliant novel For Whom the Bell Tolls and subsequently covered World War II. His classic novella The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. He died in 1961.
Generously supported by the Opera Tavern (Salt Yard Group). Supported by the Mercers’ Company, the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation and the Boris Karloff Charitable Foundation.
Thursday 7 April 2016 – STAGETEXT performance
The performance on 7 April 2016 is captioned by Stagetext. Captioning makes the spoken text accessible to the audience and is especially useful for deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing patrons
Elizabeth Jane Cassidy
Harvey Steven Meneses
Tuesday 5 April 2016 (following the performance)
Following the performance there will be a discussion led by Paul Preston CBE, Príncipe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish Studies at the London School of Economics, and the foremost historian of the Spanish Civil War. His many books include We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War, The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge, ¡Comrades! Portraits from the Spanish Civil War and Franco: A biography. Ernest Hemingway often used real people as the basis for his fictional characters, and Professor Preston’s intimate knowledge of the events which form the background of the play allows him to say with authority who stood behind the people in The Fifth Column. This promises to be a fascinating discussion.
Monday 11 April 2016 (following the performance):
After the performance there will be an opportunity to meet the best-selling author Naomi Wood. Her most recent book, Mrs Hemingway, tells the story of how it was to love – and be loved by – the most famous writer of his generation. Set against the backdrop of bohemian Paris in the 1920s to 1960s Cold War America, Mrs Hemingway is narrated by Ernest Hemingway’s four wives: Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary. Based on real love-letters and telegrams, the novel is inspired by the explosive love-triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages. As each wife struggles with his mistress for Ernest’s heart – and a place in his bed – each marriage slips from tenderness to treachery. Each Mrs Hemingway thought it would last forever. Each one was wrong.
As with much of Hemingway’s writing, the central characters in The Fifth Column owe something to his own relationship – in Madrid in 1937 he was at the beginning of an affair with the journalist Martha Gellhorn, later to become his wife. Naomi Wood will talk about the time of Hemingway’s life when he was writing The Fifth Column, and lead a discussion about her book and the play. Mrs Hemingway has won acclaim and prizes all over the world, and Naomi Wood is a fascinating speaker.