Sunday, 4 June 2017

A vote for Roosevelt at FET

How would Eleanor Roosevelt have fared in our post-truth world?  Donald Trump would have hated her. Bernie Sanders (and Jeremy Corbyn) would have loved her. Your reviewer wanted to ask her portrayer, Alison Skilbeck, to stand for Prime Minister in the up-coming election (as Mrs Roosevelt of course).

Donald Douglas said that “Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London” was a truly one-woman show, with Alison Skilbeck having written and acted in FET’s latest production.  And in over an hour non-stop Ms Skilbeck gave us a sympathetic portrayal of a remarkable woman.

We are used to these talented performers that come to FET being able to conjure up voices and actions in performances that move and amuse us, as well as imparting some real wisdoms to us group of middle class expats. But Alison Skilbeck brought us a woman of conviction, very liberal, probably more so than her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR had a loyal if not loving companion; he had a string of mistresses; she had a string of feminist friends (despite innuendo she came across as faithful – she had made her vows). But the crippling polio which struck down FDR in mid-career demanded her physical as well as moral support. And she did it with great skill.

Eleanor described her passions as “talking and writing” and for over an hour Alison Skilbeck drew on those writings to illustrate Eleanor’s impressions of her visit to the UK in 1942 after the American troops were deployed to Europe. Her meetings with the King and Queen, Churchill and Ernest Bevin, General Eisenhower and especially the ordinary citizens were all reported with humour and humility. (It was cold and there was a lot of Brussels sprouts..)

Eleanor’s passion then was to ensure that after we had won the war, we should win the peace. And it was the planning going on in government for this that impressed her – but the indomitable spirit of the British people was what moved her most. Her desire for a new world order via a United Nations, where she became US ambassador, led to her chairing the committee to draw up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thanks again to FET for a moving and thought provoking production. One wants to avoid politics in the run up to an election, but if the best we can come up with in 2017 is Theresa May and Marine Le Pen in a world which has seen Eleanor Roosevelt, things have definitely declined.