My Boy Jack
By David Haig
25 - 30 October, 2010
Batemans' Drawing Room
This play explores the nature of a man who loses his balance when devotion to family and country clash. When World War 1 breaks out Rudyard Kipling’s son, Jack, is determined to fight but the Army and Navy both reject him because of his extremely poor eyesight. Undaunted, Kipling uses his influence to land Jack a commission; Jack goes to war and is reported missing. The play is a powerful and moving account of Kipling’s anguish and guilt and their effect on his family.
‘My Boy Jack’ is both a character study of one of the most famous literary figures of the 20th century, and a complex tale of a family in conflict. The play reveals the nature of a man torn between a fierce patriotic love for his country and his love for his son.
Rudyard Kipling is eager for his only son, Jack, to enlist as an Army officer and fight for King and country in the Great War. Jack is a teenage boy dreaming of a life beyond the shadow of his famous father, and sees the war as a chance to become a man in his own right. Carrie Kipling, Rudyard’s American wife, is torn between supporting her husband and protecting her child, and Elsie is a forgotten sister desperately trying to make sense of the situation unfolding around her.
It would be easy to think of David Haig’s play, ‘My Boy Jack’, as just a reflection on a moment in history, a play set at the height of the British Empire and the onset of World War One. However, with regular news items about young British soldiers being killed in Afghanistan, it seems the world has not moved on so very far, and the play speaks very powerfully to a modern audience. ‘My Boy Jack’, also the title of Kipling’s 1915 poem, questions the extent of Kipling’s responsibility for the fate of his son, and ultimately how he deals with the knowledge of that complicity.
‘My Boy Jack’ was first performed at Hampstead Theatre in 1997, with David Haig as Rudyard Kipling and Belinda Lang playing Carrie. Haig and Lang re-visited their roles in 2005 when they took the production on a national tour.
Haig then went on to adapt the stage play into a film script, which was broadcast on ITV1 in 2007, and starred Kim Cattrell, Daniel Radcliffe and Carey Mulligan alongside David Haig.
Following in the footsteps of such esteemed actors must be a daunting prospect, yet this cast has brought great insight and depth to the characters. It has been a real privilege to work with them to re-tell this incredibly moving story. I hope you enjoy the performance.
Despite being a FIPA award winning writer, 55 year old David Haig is best known as an actor. Renowned for his versatility, he has appeared in numerous stage, film and television productions, playing both dramatic and comedic roles. After appearing in Four Weddings and a Funeral, he later joined Hugh Grant in the romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice alongside Sandra Bullock.
Haig famously played Inspector Grim, the inept foil to Rowan Atkinson's Inspector Fowler in the BBC comedy The Thin Blue Line, and he is only one of two actors to have performed an Alan Bennett Talking Heads monologue, the other being Bennett himself. David has been seen in many popular TV series and recently starred opposite Julie Walters in the TV drama Mo where he played Jon, the husband of politician Mo Mowlam.
Haigh first considered writing a play about Rudyard Kipling when a fellow actor remarked on his uncanny resemblance to the author. Years later, he toured around England with his play My Boy Jack, starring Belinda Laing as Kipling's American wife, Carrie. David later wrote and starred in the film version of the play alongside Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe as his son John.
Haig was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1989 for Best Actor in a New Play for his performance in Our Country's Good. His most recent role is that of Jim Hacker in the stage version of Yes, Prime Minister which opened at the Gielgud Theatre, in London’s West End in September 2010. David currently lives in South London. He is father to five children and is a patron of SANDS, a charity which deals with stillbirth and neonatal death