Winston Vs Churchill
The Coronet Theatre
Reviewed – 8th June 2019
“Battiston proves his acting chops in a performance that will stick in the mind long after the last cigar smoke ring has dissolved into the ether”
Guiseppe Battiston is a behemoth of Italian film and television. The multi-award-winning actor seems well-known to most Italians I’ve come across, and so having him bring his majestic stage presence to The Coronet Theatre is a real treat. Performed as part of the (sadly too short) Italian Theatre Festival, ‘Winston vs Churchill’ is an intriguing character study, funny and profound in equal measure.
Carlo G. Gabardini’s play blends speeches, letters and conversation to explore “what makes a man capable of shifting the course of history”. It’s a riveting concept: a play in Italian about a towering figure in British political history. Rather than being overtly critical of the man, Gabardini has fun with the character. Historical retelling of Churchill’s career is intercut with moments akin to stand-up comedy, with Battiston bashing out jokes like there’s no tomorrow. Maria Roveran gives the character a sparring partner, gently offering warnings about his health that get stubbornly ignored.
Battiston is intensely enjoyable to watch. Physically, he embodies an ageing Churchill perfectly, leaning heavily on furniture to get around and blowing smoke rings from the cigars constantly found in his hand. Jokes about Italians losing football matches like they lose wars go down well, but he also finds Churchill’s optimism. At this precarious time in the history of the European project, Churchill seems prophetic, observing how islanders will always remain isolated islanders.
Paola Rota’s direction produces some stunning visual moments. Roveran sings whilst Churchill, silhouetted by a back light, surrounds himself in cigar smoke – a noir-esque sight fitting with the overall design of the show. A simple set implying an old man’s drawing room, replete with armchair and globe drinks cabinet, tells us all we need to know about time, place and character.
This show could easily continue its run in London. An Italian take on a British legend that delves into what it means to be British, and what our idolised historical figures represent. Battiston proves his acting chops in a performance that will stick in the mind long after the last cigar smoke ring has dissolved into the ether.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Winston Vs Churchill
The Coronet Theatre as part of the Italian Theatre Festival
Previously reviewed at this venue: