The White Carnation
By R.C. Sherriff
3 - 8 December, 2018
Cast & Crew
It is Christmas Eve, 1951. As Britain rebuilds itself after the war, John Greenwood has it all – a successful business, a beautiful house and an aristocratic wife. But as he bids farewell to the guests leaving his annual Christmas party, a gust of wind slams the front door shut, starting a chain of events that makes him doubt everything he has ever known... He breaks a window to gain entry and finds the house ruined and deserted. A policeman questions him about what he is doing in the house, all of whose inhabitants were killed by a V-1 flying bomb during a Christmas Eve party in 1944, but Greenwood indignantly insists that he is in his own house.
R C Sherriff is best known for his first world war masterpiece, Journey’s End, but he also wrote other plays and several successful film scripts, including The Dam Busters. When it was first produced in 1953, The White Carnation was a big hit. The play was revived successfully in 2013 when it was described as “A neglected little treasure”.
Originally the play was set in the London area, with the central character, John Greenwood, a stockbroker. However, an important element of the plot is the bombing of Greenwood’s house by a “doodle-bug” on Christmas Eve 1944. This puzzled me a little because the intensive use of V-1 flying bombs in London ceased after 1940. I then discovered that 50 flying bombs were air launched from Heinkel bombers flying off the Lincolnshire coast over the Christmas period, 1944. Intended for Manchester, they actually landed in Yorkshire, which led me to relocate the play from London.
The play revolves around Greenwood, a wealthy, self-made mill-owner with an aristocratic wife. It is nearly midnight, Christmas Eve, 1951 and he is saying farewell to guests at the end of a party. There is a sudden gust of wind, the lights in the house go out and the door slams. He is locked out of his home and the events which follow make him doubt everything he has ever known.
As you will realise on watching the play, it demands much from its set and technical designers and back-stage team – as well as its cast. Without the ingenuity of our set designer the production would have been impossible and its effectiveness relies heavily at times on the lighting and sound. I would like to thank the whole production team and all the cast for their patience with me and their hard work and skill.