- International Season – The Irvine Theatre, June 1952
PETER as Jonah
In playwriting, the heart is not as a rule an acceptable substitute for the head, although a good plot may be. In ‘They’ll Arrive Tomorrow’, Natam Shaham – the author of this play – managed to stick to the hard theatrical facts, such as a minefield that surrounds a military outpost and its demoralizing effect it had on the soldiers there. In so far as this, he was safe enough and, potentially exciting.
Here we had a theme based around an incident during the Israeli-Arab war, which was reminiscent of an earlier play, ‘Journey’s End’, and like the latter, this production was not only realistic, but also theatrically effective, both in drive and direction. In both plays, a platoon of a civilian army are holding a strategically important point against all odd. In both plays, the commander (here played by PETER WYNGARDE) is represented as a natural soldier – a born leader of men. But while Stanhope in ‘Journey’s End’ justifies the description, Jonah in the play under review, does not.
Jonah’s problem is of course the minefield that lies inside his position, the presence of which is destroying the morale of his men. These mines do create a situation, but the trouble seems to be that neither Jonah or his author seem to know what to do about them. Jonah’s idea seems to be to say nothing about them and hope that they will gradually be exploded by the less valuable members of his command. However, what actually happens is that the victims include his least replaceable officer and the girl he loves; the mines therefore, are used as the theme for some very illuminating discussions on military ethics.
What is strictly the point of this play? A situation of real tension! There are the mines, and no means of detecting them. The men are reluctant to leave their hut, and the officers are divided in their views on the proper way to treat them.
The tension is heightened when it becomes a question of informing the relieving forces and running the risk of spreading the reluctance. Running of this main line of possible development were several branch subsidiary lines; the commanding officer’s (Jonah) passion for the only woman in the party, the sharp divergence of opinion between him and his second in command, a commander’s duty to take no unnecessary risks, and so on. But as one might expect in drama, none of them worked out plainly or sufficiently.
“Mr PETER WYNGARDE, as the commanding officer, makes perhaps the strongest impression.” The Times – Friday, June 27th, 1952.
The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/