THE SAYING goes that ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’. Such could certainly be said about Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston for 57 years, and probably the only person of whom he took any notice.
The audience at the Lamb Theatre last Sunday (April 3) were enthralled by a one-woman performance by Rohan McCullough who charted the life of Clementine Hozier, born in Mayfair to titled parents in 1885, although her paternity was the subject of much debate at the time.
Clementine first met Winston Churchill in 1904 but they did not meet again until 1908 when a chance reunion at a dinner party brought them together for a second time.
She said she remembered his ‘piercing blue eyes’ and fell instantly in love with him, as he did with her.
They were married at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster in September of 1908.
Young Churchill had already become known as a war hero and correspondent and entered politics in 1900.
His career and reputation, however, were badly damaged when, in 1915, he was one of the political and military engineers of the disastrous Dardanelles landings during the First World War and he took much of the blame for the fiasco.
The Churchills had five children, the fourth one of which, Marigold, died at the age of three.
All this, and much more, was told to a captivated audience who hung on to every expressive word delivered by the brilliant Miss McCullough as “Clemmie” unfolds her story with the benefit of letters written to and from each other.
The scene in which she describes the death of little Marigold, known as “Duckatilly” was extremely moving and there could not have been a dry eye in the intimate confines of the Lamb Theatre.
We heard about another daughter Sarah who decided to go into Show business even though she had little talent.
Her parents’ dismay was compounded when she went to America and married a comedian/violinist by the name of Vic Oliver who Winston heartily disliked.
We moved into the interval with Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister in May 1940 after spending the years between the two World Wars in a political wilderness.
The second half was no less compulsive listening as we were told about Churchill’s determination to win the War against great odds and how he worked himself and everyone below him tirelessly until victory was achieved in 1945.
The bitter disappointment of being rejected in the first post war election and his subsequent return to glory as Prime Minister again in 1951 at the age of 75 was also poignantly told.
This was a bravura performance from an actress who took us through the good and bad times of being married to an imperfect, but driven man.
The Lamb Theatre was the ideal venue for this monologue from a very talented actress who faultlessly spanned the many years of a turbulent marriage, the insight to which the author, Hugh Whitemore (who is Rohan’s husband), first gave us in his televised play, The Gathering Storm.
With such a pedigree and excellent direction by Gareth Armstrong it had to be successful and, once again, the Lamb audience went home, all the better for the experience.