BWW Review: WINSTON VS CHURCHILL, The Coronet Theatre
The Italian Theatre Festival starts its 2019 swansong bringing one of Italy's most distinguished performers to the Coronet stage. Giuseppe Battiston takes on the role of Winston Churchill in Carlo G. Gabardini's play Winston vs Churchill.
An exploration of the politician and the man, the piece is set at the end of his life when a weak Churchill is kept together by an array of drugs and aided by a nurse (Maria Roveran) whom he likes to mock. Directed by Paolo Rota, the show is impressive with its strong visual imagery and rock sound design, but conceals a slight shallowness in terms of textual material.
Gabardini uses modern language as a ploy to achieve a sort of "cool" effect rather than actually employing it to resonate within the character and the fictional world he presents. This can also be said for Angelo Longo's soundscape: it comes together with Andrea Violato's lights to thrill the crowd but these instances are too far apart and generic to have a meaningful impact on the outcome and don't succeed in giving it the clever slant they want.
Nonetheless, Battiston introduces a man of culture and many passions, strong even in old age and exceptionally opinionated about everything. A red velvet robe covers a grey three-piece suit as he meanders the stage knowing how important and imposing he looks - even if he's forced to prop himself up with a cane.
Regrettably, it comes off as a show that relies too much on (quite literally) smoke and mirrors, masking a shortsighted representation of a complex figure. Gabardini deploys plenty of wit and sarcasm but these are basic insights into Churchill's mind. As performed here as a one-off, Winston vs Churchill is a reasonably compelling piece of theatre but looks more like a successful vanity project than anything else.