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Thursday, January 11, 2007

To Make The People Smile Again by George Wheeler

I was talking with a friend recently about the new movie Pan's Labyrinth. Neither of us had seen the movie yet. I said that I was sort of interested in it since in was set in Spain during the civil war in the 1930s. My friend who is 38 and well educated, about to get a PhD, knew nothing about the Spanish Civil War. I was a little shocked by this. I guess I think that it is something everyone should know about since it was such a pivotal point in the events of the 20th Century.

The BBC World Service radio is presenting a drama set in the war. The play can be heard on the internet for a couple more days, until late Friday Jan. 12th 2007. I wish there could archive these things somewhere, but I guess there are rights issues involved.

To Make The People Smile Again by George Wheeler
Dramatized by Steve Chambers
With Ben Crowe as George Wheeler.
Directed and Produced by Marion Nancarrow

The play begins with a young British man George Wheeler signing on to join the International Brigades to travel to Spain an assist in the support of the republican government . In 1936 General Franco backed by The Catholic Church and various other interests including the Nazis and the Italian fascists rebelled against the government which was engaged in land reform. An International Brigade was formed to help in the struggle. This was made up of American and British Communists, socialists and anarchists. The we follow the young man George to Spain and see the struggle through his eyes in this excellent factual production. The play includes a few recordings of the voices of actual aged survivors.

This play presents the internal difficulties of the various political forces involved with the international brigades. This is also discussed in George Orwell's memoir of his time in Spain, Homage to Catalonia.
The play has a very human story. It's not at all a dry history lesson and is a very good introduction to the war. It is an entertaining and informative radio drama. The so called "free world" didn't help at all. There was no aid to the republic from the USA or British governments. Only individual citizens and communists, socialist parties and anarchists organizations helped . The Soviet Union helped for a while, but perhaps in the end somehow betrayed or abandoned the struggle. It's didn't end up so good for the cause of freedom. Franco won and was the dictator of Spain for the next 40 years.
The BBC World Service Drama is presenting a series of plays about heroes. The story of Mr. Wheeler and the International Brigades could not be more fitting in such a series.

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