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Weapons of Happiness


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A: Howard Brenton Pf: 1976, London Pb: 1976 G: Pol. drama in 2 acts S: Street, factory, waste-ground, Planetarium, and drain, London, and farm in Wales, 1976; interrogation room, Prague, 1951; Moscow, 1947; Ruzyn Prison, Czechoslovakia, 1952 C: 25m, 3f, extrasJosef Frank has come to London from Czechoslovakia and now works in a crisp[potato chip]-making factory. He witnesses his boss Ralph Makepeace being mugged by three young people wearing balaclavas (in fact his own employees, resentful that he will not allow them to become unionized). During the police investigation, Frank, a former Czech government minister, has a flashback to his 1951 interrogation by the Communist security police. In 1947, Frank and a senior minister, Victor [sic] Clementis, successfully negotiate with Stalin over a trade deal. The English factory workers tell Bob Hicks from the union that Makepeace intends to close the works, but Hicks merely urges caution. Janice, a politically well-informed factory worker, seduces Frank in the London Planetarium. The workers occupy the factory, which is anyway on the verge of bankruptcy. Frank relives the false confessions of Clementis and himself at the Prague Treason Trials and witnesses Clementis being hanged. The rebellious workers escape through a drain and arrive at a farm in Wales, abandoned by the farmer because he could no longer survive there. Frank dies of a heart attack.

A: Howard Brenton Pf: 1976, London Pb: 1976 G: Pol. drama in 2 acts S: Street, factory, waste-ground, Planetarium, and drain, London, and farm in Wales, 1976; interrogation room, Prague, 1951; Moscow, 1947; Ruzyn Prison, Czechoslovakia, 1952 C: 25m, 3f, extras

Set against Britain in decline, with the crisp-factory under threat of closure and a farmer who could no longer make ends meet, different political responses are proposed: the idealistic revolt of the young, devoid of serious strategy and soon to fizzle out; hard-line Communism, with its lies and brutality, represented by the disillusioned Josef Frank (in fact hanged with Vladimir Clementis in 1952); the gradual reformism of Hicks, the Trade Unionist; and the despairing resignation of the Establishment, represented by Makepeace.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Howard Brenton (b. 1942)


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