Celebrated contemporary historian and writer, Francis Beckett, has penned A Modest Little Man, a comedy about Labour’s great reformer and post-war prime minister, Clement Attlee, which premieres at London’s Bread & Roses Theatre in January.
Attlee was the man who, during his six year tenure, changed the whole direction of public policy and transformed the lives of the next generation with the expansion of the welfare state.
It’s May 1945. Britain celebrates victory and cheers Winston Churchill but the people who fought the war want a better world.
However, the Labour Party is led by a nonentity – “a modest little man with plenty to be modest about. He says almost nothing. He sits in his grey suit and puffs his pipe”.
How can the insignificant, passionless little Labour leader like Clem Attlee possibly compete with Churchill?
Even if, by some miracle, he wins the election, he is far too timid to do anything very much with his victory.
He would inherit a war-ravaged economy. He would be persuaded that this was not the time to bring in the vast and expensive programme of social reform – the creation of the NHS, the welfare state, and universal free education – that it was committed to. And yet…
Francis Beckett is an author, journalist, broadcaster, playwright and contemporary historian. His 20 books include biographies of four Prime Ministers.
Directed by Owain Rose, A Modest Little Man runs at the Bread & Roses Theatre from January 15-26.