SECRET WW2 recently ventured into the London fringe arts and theatre scene, thanks to a remarkable coincidence recently discovered during the unveiling in Brighton of our blue plaque to Captain Edward Zeff MBE, Croix de Guerre, an agent of SOE's French Section.
A couple attending the event at Embassy Court on the Brighton seafront introduced themselves as John and Katie Plews, joint artistic directors of the north London fringe theatre - Upstairs at The Gatehouse - in Highgate. John had only just found out that he was related to Zeff, a intriguing find since he was currently engaged in the production of a play about former French Section agent, Odette Churchill GC, MBE, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. Odette was named Sansom during the war, and Hallowes after her divorce from Peter Churchill, another French Section agent.
Keeping in touch after Brighton, John subsequently invited representatives of SECRET WW2 to see the finished product: Treating Odette - written by Jennifer Selway and directed by John Plews. The play is set in 1949 when two of the most famous women in Britain meet in a fashionable Mayfair beauty salon. One was the film star Anna Neagle and the other was the wartime heroine Odette Churchill. Under the gentle hands of their young beautician they were to reveal the explosive secrets that neither the press nor the Gestapo ever discovered.
Based on a true account of their meetings in Mayfair during the filming of the film Odette, the star of the film and the subject of the film formed a very special and lasting friendship. Treating Odette told the story of this friendship and the play proved to be a highly-enjoyable night out for SECRET WW2 Chair Louisa Russell, Trustee Paul McCue and supporter Ray Windmill. Ray took with him Lois Watson, a wartime FANY member of SOE, whom John and the cast were delighted to meet after the show.
Interestingly, the actress playing Odette, Jessica Boyde, has an English/French bilingual background and would undoubtedly have been talent-spotted by French Section in 1942! And Red Gray, who played Anna Neagle, is a Brighton resident who knew about our blue plaques.
Click HERE to read the review of "Treating Odette" in The Stage, in which the play was described as "a treat to watch" - and HERE for the review by Laura Ellis for The Open Door ... "a triumph of warmth and wit … a rather charming and fascinating piece".