‘It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen’
— 1984 by George Orwell
When the clock strikes thirteen, the statue of Winston Churchill comes to life. For this one night, this single hour, Pip Utton‘s Churchill reflects on his life, his various achievements, and his three loves: whiskey, cigars and his wife Clementine.
In the space of an hour, Pip Utton paints a convincing and intimate portrait of Churchill. Starting with little jokes about his fellow statues – when it is Abraham Lincoln’s time, he always attempts to go to the theatre forgetting he will never get to see act two – and the fact that Nelson Mandela is the only statue cast in his actual colour, although the pigeons are trying to remedy this situation – he sets the tone for a humorous but serious evening.
Drinking from a glass canister of whiskey, pilfered from the man who regularly sleeps under his statue, he recounts his life’s story. Starting from childhood, the boarding school experience and playing with toy soldiers, Churchill recounts his military career and the difficulty of sending men into battle; his political career with its victories and disappointments.
Even without a detailed knowledge of Churchill’s life, Utton’s performance is powerful, accurate and understandable. The subject matter is serious and so is the acting, but Utton is not afraid to lighten the mood with well chosen jokes and jibes to current day politicians and society.
Overall, a rewarding performance and an enjoyable evening. With this one single performance, Pip Utton has made my (very short) list of performers I’d go to see whenever I have a chance regardless of what it is that he’s performing.
Seen on March 12th, 2013 in Zwolle, the Netherlands. See wereldtheater.com for future performances in the Netherlands.