Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald


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Hector the Hero

Richard Reincke has produced a superb website on Fighting Mac at: pw1. Taken on September 20, Some rights reserved. Filmic structures are always tricky on stage.

David Mamet, an exception, can get away with writing long chains of scenes that last a couple of minutes each. But the theatre prefers to relax, to snuggle down, to linger slowly over every morsel of a many-layered spread.

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And what a pest he is. As a Highlander, he secretly loathes the suave English colonists who laze around the hill stations of Ceylon playing cricket, pouring whiskies down their throats and holding fancy-dress parties as if they were all ensconced in cosy Woking. With no fighting for Fighting Mac to do, he must rely on his diplomatic skills.

But he has none. Fighting Mac prefers the company of a lowly Ceylonese bank clerk whose teenage sons he lavishes with gifts.

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But danger lurks in these innocent connections. A plot is afoot to oust him from the colony. Busy tongues then claim that Fighting Mac exposed himself to some kids on a train.


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To prevent a scandal, the Governor persuades him to take the first steamer back to England. But his flight is interpreted as guilt. From this moment, the play turns into a tragic thriller full of contemporary resonances. Fighting Mac was a celebrity in the Edwardian world.

Fighting Mac: the downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald

His stern, resolute features were distributed on cigarette cards and Empire tea caddies around the globe. When he was court-martialled, he became headline news overnight. And he knew that even if he beat the charges his reputation would never recover. The army abandoned him.

Unable to reveal the secret that would clear his name, he blew his brains out in a Paris hotel.

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A photo of a handsome young boy was found in his wallet, and the true identity of this young lad comes as a profound shock. David Gooderson has written a brilliant polemic against our cruel desire to prejudge sexual scandals. When a new case emerges, we succumb to ecstasies of disapproval rather than seeking out the plain old boring facts. There are some shortcomings in this production.


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More props are needed, too. Golf clubs have to double as rifles in a parade-ground scene. Not every performance is top-drawer either, but the silky-voiced Philip York is marvellously devious as a genial toff who knifes Fighting Mac between the shoulder blades. Elizabeth Counsell, all feathery hair and perfumed diction, gives a superb portrait of Edwardian hypocrisy as the Lady Governor. Stuart McGugan, playing the lead, grows convincingly from a truculent misfit into a bear-like tragic hero, and towards the end he reaches peaks of heart-tugging grandeur.

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Some bright young button at the BBC should scoot along to the Finborough and snap up this script. It could become great campaigning television. Rather than dwindle into mourning, Joyce tells her family to shove it, buys herself a new red overcoat and hits the clubs. She befriends a young lap dancer at a strip joint and treats her to cream teas at the Ritz. Toby Young.

Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald
Fighting Mac: The Downfall of Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald

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