Dalton Trumbo’s anti-war drama Johnny Got His Gun to open in London

Jack Holden - Johnny Got His Gun

Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo’s powerful play about war, its perpetrators and its victims, opens at the Southwark Playhouse in London next month.

The run will be accompanied by a series of post-show talks (details below.)

Johnny has been adapted for the stage by Bradley Rand Smith from the 1939 book by the American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Spartacus, Roman Holiday).

It is directed by David Mercatali (Tender Napalm, Black Jesus, Dark Vanilla Jungle), and stars Jack Holden (War Horse, Minotaur) as injured soldier Joe Bonham.

“Always here the same people willing to sacrifice somebody else’s life. But it’s time two people had a say in things: us little guys and the dead.”

When the call came, idealistic Joe Bonham eagerly volunteered for the trenches of World War One.

Now he has paid a price he never expected, and far away from his American homeland he struggles to come to terms with what his world has become.

As his grip on reality becomes ever more tenuous he reflects on the true nature of war and the choices he made.

Adapted for the stage by Bradley Rand Smith, Johnny Got His Gun won an Obie-award for Jeff Daniels when it premièred on Broadway in 1983.

The book has also been filmed twice, with Timothy Bottoms in 1971, and Benjamin McKenzie in 2008.

The post show talks will cover medicine during World War I; how we should remember the Great War; and the play’s relevance to World War II; as well as a Q&A with the cast and creative team.

Speakers will include Dr Catherine Gainty (Lecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Kings College, London), Dr Will Kaufman (Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Central Lancashire) and the Stop The War Coalition.

Johnny Got His Gun begins previews at the Southwark Playhouse on May 21 and runs until June 14.

The talks will take place immediately after the show, in the theatre. Admission will be free with a ticket to that evening’s performance.

Full programme of post-show talks:

Saturday 24 May: (evening performance): How Should We Remember The First World War? Hosted by Stop the War Coalition
Thursday 29 May: This play is not about the First World War – Johnny Got His Gun and the politics of World War Two. Hosted by Will Kaufman PhD FRSA FHEA, Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Central Lancashire.
Wednesday 4 June: Post-show talk with the cast and the creative team.
Thursday 11 June: American Medicine at War. Hosted by Dr Catherine Gainty, Lecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Kings College, London.

Dalton Trumbo (1905 – 1976) was an American screenwriter and novelist.

He won two Oscars, for his screenplays The Brave One and Roman Holiday but was blacklisted in 1947 by the House Committee on Un-American Activities for being a suspected Communist.

Among his credits as a screenwriter are Spartacus, Exodus and Papillon.

In January this year it was reported that Steven Spielberg would begin filming Trumbo’s script for Montezuma, starring Javier Bardem.

A film of Trumbo’s life, starring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), begins filming this year.

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