Cheltenham Grandma’s Story Inspires Play on World War 1

Number 13 in  Timms Times — a blogger’s view from 2014

Below is a story released to Gloucestershire media on 15 October 2014, and resulted in coverage in the Gloucestershire Echo:

Cheltenham-born author Howard Timms has penned a play, Words of War, based on chats with his grandmother long after the Great War. ‘It was the 1960’s’ Timms recalls ‘and I was visiting Grandma as a politics student who had just seen the satirical musical Oh What a Lovely War. I wanted to find out if the show told the truth. Grandma was Victorian, and I thought she would be cross about Lovely War, but she was very calm.’

Timms’s grandmother told him of his grandfather building aeroplanes for a Cheltenham company, H H Martyn, thereby being excused military service. Inevitably, some women gave him a white feather – calling him a coward. Even more shocking was hearing of his grandmother’s romance in 1912 with a lord’s son, whose  parents promptly engaged him to someone of his own class, and put him in the army. He died at the Somme in 1916.

‘That story played on my mind for 50 years,’ Timms writes ‘until Deep End Company asked me to write this play. It shows a widowed grandma, Kath, looking back on the Great War. There is a lord’s son, though his story, like the whole play, is fictional. It follows soldiers of the Gloucestershire Regiment in action at the Western Front, three of them in love with Kath.’

Words of War opens at the Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham, October 22 – 25, directed by Lloyd Spencer. Timms devised and wrote it in  collaboration with Deep End actors and writers from Playhouse New Drama, of which he is chairman. Timms’s other plays include In Tune With Dementia, described in an Edinburgh Festival review as ‘A hugely impactful performance, it is a beautifully written piece. . .’ (Three Weeks.)

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