This compelling one act play, which premiered in England and Wales in 2015, returns to the stage in 2016 for another multi-city run:
2016 PERFORMANCES INCLUDE
28 - 29 October 2016 - Minghella Studios - University of Reading
11 -12 November 2016 - Maltings Arts Theatre - St. Albans
18 November 2016 - Grove Auditorium - Magdalen College - Oxford University
20 November 2016 - Bampton Village Hall - Bampton Oxfordshire
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- SYNOPSIS -
Based on true events - from the time of the Blitz when Britain stood alone against Nazi terror: One man - an eminent and admired Law Lord - must decide a case that could be the culmination of his storied career as a judge - or could forever tarnish his reputation. He must decide how to strike the balance between civil liberty and the wartime demands for stronger security in the face of worldwide terror. Sparks fly when those closest to him begin to question not only the judgment he plans to write but even their faith in the man they have so long admired.
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This is the first play written by Scott W. Wright of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota.
Regulation 18B No Free Man
Based on actual events, this one act play explores individual liberty in a time of war. At issue is Regulation 18B, which gives Britain’s Home Secretary the power to arrest and indefinitely detain those he deems to be “persons of hostile associations.” Two friends, now esteemed Law Lords serving on Britain’s highest court, find themselves at bitter odds in the landmark case of Liversidge v. Anderson. Robert Liversidge, a British citizen detained and held without charges, brings an action against Home Secretary Anderson for false imprisonment and places Churchill’s government on the defensive. Lord Wright, influenced by the urgencies of war, plans to side with the government, while Lord Atkin, preparing a blistering dissent, is determined to defend long-held British legal traditions. With themes that resonate from Magna Carta to the present day, the play presents questions which challenge the greatest of legal minds and the firmest of friendships.
All of the 2015 performances of the play (in six venues in England and Wales) were followed by panel discussions. The same is planned for the 2016 performances.
Development of the Play
The idea of a play: In the summer of 2009 I read the reprint of an address Lord Bingham had given at an international law conference in London on October 5, 2007. His speech referenced a case I was not familiar with, that of Liversidge v. Anderson, and was entitled 'The Rule of Law Amid the Clash of Arms.' The case came about when a man by the name of Liversidge had been detained in England in 1940 at the time that Hitler's forces were sweeping across Europe. As the Battle of Dunkirk commenced on the continent, the British Home Secretary ordered Liversidge to be imprisoned at Brixton under the authority of Regulation 18B, which was one part of sweeping security measures Parliament had authorized upon Germany's invasion of Poland.
Regulation 18B allowed the government to hold a British subject indefinitely, without charges, based upon the Home Office's assertion that the person held "hostile associations." Unlike most wartime detainees, Mr. Liversidge was wealthy and took to the courts to challenge his detention. The case ultimately came up on appeal in 1941 to the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary sitting in the House of Lords (the nation's highest court). As was customary, five Law Lords were assigned to the case.
I was familiar with the name of one of the assigned Law Lords: Lord Atkin. From my own law studies I knew he was influential in the development of the law, not only in Britain, but throughout the English-speaking world. In reading Lord Bingham's speech, and looking into the case history further, I came to realize that the Liversidge case had, over the decades, achieved a certain level of notoriety, primarily due to Atkin's sharply worded dissenting opinion in which he assailed the reasoning embraced by the other 4 Law Lords.
But what most caught my attention, the more that I read, was the fact that among those other Law Lords, one shared my father's name, Robert Wright. There is no relation of course. It's a very common name. But it caught my eye, and I was interested in learning more about him. As I dug a bit further I learned that Lord Wright was not just any judge or Law Lord. He and Lord Atkin were, in fact, long-time friends. They began their legal careers together.And as Law Lords through the late 1930s and up to the time of Atkin's death in 1944, Wright and Atkin served on dozens of panels together, deciding numerous cases, always as far as I could determine, in complete agreement with one another. I looked at case after case where they had served together - assessing facts, analyzing issues, and applying the law in practically every legal context you can imagine: contract law, insurance, banking, maritime and shipping, workman's compensation, sorting out property rights, etc.- and in all of those cases, year after year, Lords Atkin and Wright seemed to agree on … well, most everything. But that is not what happened in the Liversidge case. Instead, at the very dark and perilous time when the Liversidge case arose - when the country stood virtually alone against fascism, Hitler having conquered nearly all of Europe, with his troops having reached the outskirts of Moscow and St. Petersburg - these two distinguished Lord Lords, these two friends, found themselves at complete odds on how this case involving civil liberty in a time of war should be decided.
THAT is what captured my imagination. THAT is what gave me the idea of wanting to write a play.Why, when it came to Regulation 18B, did they disagree?And what was it that triggered Atkin's stinging dissent?
I imagined them coming together on the eve of when opinions would be read in the House of Lords. One friend coming to the home of the other, on short notice, before anything was final. But why? To discuss the case? One seeking to convince the other to switch his vote at the 11th hour? Or was there something else?What would they have said to one another that night? What if I wrote a play to hear what they had to say, one friend to another, behind closed doors, with so much at stake?I wanted to hear what that conversation might sound like.
That is why I decided to write this play.
Regulation 18B - No Free Man.
Scott W. Wright
History of the Making of this Play
Research on this play began in the Summer of 2009. The initial script was completed in 2012, and a reading of the play was presented at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota in August 2012.(A photo of the actors from the 2012 reading is included on the Photo Gallery page of this website.) The play went through further development and revision over the following two years. In 2014, Malcolm Stork and Mike Clark of the 2015 Cookham Festival board invited the play to be performed at the Festival in May 2015 (in Cookham, Berkshire, in the Thames Valley, approximately 30 miles west of London). Sylvia Wimpenny was selected as director in Summer 2014, the play was cast in Autumn, and rehearsals began in December 2014.
Scott W. Wright