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August 15, 2009

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Contrasting ladies take Edinburgh stage

"HE never does anything he doesn't want to do, and always has someone else to clear up the mess afterwards."

That's how Winston Churchill's wife Clementine sums up the tribulations of living with her workaholic husband as portrayed by actress Rohan McCullough in a riveting hour-long monologue in "My Darling Clemmie" at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The intimate Assembly Rooms theater is ideally suited to the production, skilfully written by McCullough's scriptwriter husband Hugh Whitemore, playing to packed audiences.

Another Fringe theater hit is Laurie Sansom's production of the late Muriel Spark's novel "The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie," a sharp and disturbing study of a dedicated "progressive" teacher at a conservative Edinburgh girls' school who admired fascism as it made its mark on Europe in the 1930s.

The play, with Anna Francolini giving a fine performance as teacher Jean Brodie, also has an uncomfortable resonance in political inroads by the right-wing in Britain today.

My Darling Clemmie follows Clementine Hozier from her birth in 1885, through her marriage to Churchill in 1908, World War I, the politics of the 1920s and his "wilderness years" of the 1930s until he finally became Britain's World War II leader. He died at the age of 90 in 1965, while Clemmie died in 1977.

Whitemore had a wealth of material on the Churchills: he wrote the script for the award-winning teleplay on Churchill in the 1930s, "The Gathering Storm," with Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave playing the leading roles. A second teleplay, "Into The Storm" (of World War II) has been released in the United States and is due in Britain in September.

The Daily Telegraph described the play in a review as "a moving production of a complex marriage told with steadfast lucidity".


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