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Churchill Season - the Saturday Play
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2.30pm - 3.30pm, Saturday 29 January 2005
The drama will be available online for seven days after broadcast on the Saturday Play page.
Playing for Time - Three Days in May 1940
Robert HardyThe fate of the United Kingdom - and perhaps the free world - was in the hands of five men in May 1940. As London went about its business, largely unaware of the catastrophe that that was unfolding over the Channel around Dunkirk, the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill - played by Robert Hardy - chaired a sequence of nine War Cabinet Meetings over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend that changed the course of the War.
Simon Schama, in his BBC TWO series The History of Britain, called the political battle that went on over that weekend one of the most dramatic moments in Britain's history in the Twentieth Century.

Playing for Time is a dramatization of those meetings over one weekend, when Winston Churchill - Prime Minister for less than a fortnight - who believed that we should fight on against Germany whatever the outcome of the war in France, was challenged by his chief rival for the premiership, Lord Halifax, played by Ronald Pickup, who believed we should sue for peace.

Robin Glendinning's play is based on the minutes of the meetings of the five man War Cabinet chaired by Churchill. Clement Atlee and Arthur Greenwood, two Labour Ministers of the newly formed Coalition Government were the junior members and supported Churchill, but the two Conservatives, both long serving Ministers, Halifax - the Foreign Secretary - and Chamberlain - who had just resigned as Prime Minister, but had the backing of the Conservative Party in Parliament - doubted the wisdom of fighting on. Halifax argued that we should attempt to negotiate a peace with Germany through Italy - at that point still neutral - and Chamberlain urged caution.

Churchill knew that if he couldn't bring the whole War Cabinet round to his view his premiership - only a fortnight old - would be over. It was a weekend when Churchill needed all his brilliance, cunning and passion to pull the Cabinet behind him. It was the weekend when he earned his spurs as a Leader.

Chamberlain is played by Jeremy Child, Clement Atlee by Bill Wallis and Arthur Greenwood by Geoffrey Whitehead. Other members of the cast include Michael Fenton Stephens, David Leonard, Roland Oliver and Mark Buffery.
 
Playing for Time was produced by Jeremy Howe for BBC Bristol.
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