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The Falklands Play (2002)

Twenty years ago, Britain went to war to regain the Falkland Islands. The Falklands Play is a gripping account of how Margaret Thatcher's government handled the biggest crisis in British ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Rt Hon Peter, 6th Baron Carrington KCMG MC (Foreign Secretary)
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Sir Robert Armstrong (Cabinet Secretary)
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Richard Luce MP (Minister of State, Foreign Office)
Clive Merrison ...
Peter Blythe ...
Rt Hon Sir Michael Havers QC MP (Attorney-General)
Jeremy Clyde ...
Sir Nicholas Henderson (HM Ambassador to the United States)
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Shaughan Seymour ...
Adm. Sir Henry Leach (First Sea Lord)
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Robin Fearn (Head of Falkland Islands Department, Foreign Office)
Jasper Jacob ...
John Wilkinson MP (Parliamentary Private Secretary to John Nott)
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Tom Enders (US Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs)
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Storyline

Twenty years ago, Britain went to war to regain the Falkland Islands. The Falklands Play is a gripping account of how Margaret Thatcher's government handled the biggest crisis in British foreign affairs since Suez. It tells the story of how Argentina - an ally of the British - fought the Conservative government and invaded sovereign British territory. This play charts the backroom manoeuvrings between Thatcher's government and the military, between the British and the Americans, and the Americans and the Argentineans that led to a breakdown in diplomacy, to war and to Britain's eventual victory. Written by Alistair Jackson <ajackson@msn.com>

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Drama | War

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10 April 2002 (UK)  »

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1.78 : 1
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Trivia

Author Ian Curteis complained in the 1980s that the BBC had refused to turn his script into an actual TV play because it was pro-Thatcher. His script was published at the time, but it wasn't until 2002 that it was, with some changes, filmed for transmission. See more »

Quotes

Alexander Haig: We are trying to de-escalise a war.
Margaret Thatcher: So am I. But you do not do it by appeasement. You increase its chances. You see this table? This was where Neville Chamberlain sat in 1938 when he spoke on the wireless about the Czechs as "far away people about whom we know nothing and with whom we have so little in common". Munich! Appeasement! A world war followed because of that irresponsible, woolly-minded, indecisive, slip-shod attitude and the deaths of 45 million people.
Tom Enders: The fact that we have to treat...
[...]
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Connections

Featured in When TV Goes to War (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

A flawed history
11 June 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a deeply flawed portrayal of the Falklands crisis, though arguably it's no more flawed than portrayals which unthinkingly demonise the Thatcher government. Propaganda is still propaganda, regardless of which side it comes from.

The Falklands Play makes many errors and omissions which undermines its relevance: It ignores the prevailing British domestic political situation. Thatcher was struggling in the polls, there was disquiet over the wisdom of choosing such a right-wing leader both within the Conservative party and in the country as a whole, and the economy showed no sign of sustained recovery from the problems of the late 1970s.

Thatcher is rightly portrayed as someone who had delusions of Churchillian leadership, however, as the play portrays her as focused and eloquent in the way Churchill was, she was in reality as desperate to retain the idea of British international power and empire as Churchill was. And just as wrong. Such irrational motives will always be wrong.

The idea that Thatcher would cite Argentina's human rights record as a reason to act aggressively is unlikely given the US support for Latin America's quasi-fascist dictators (Operation Condor and more). The international fight against Communism was far more important, especially in the US, than a petty squabble over some desolate rocks filled with little Englanders. Thatcher would know that Argentina's dictatorship was US-backed, just as was Chile's and a handful of others, and their unethical methods were tolerated in order to prevent the spread of Communism.

The play shows Argentina to be exclusively aggressive, intransigent and scheming. Appeasers or doubters are portrayed as woolly-minded, weak or foolish (especially Francis Pym). Another reviewer suggested this was a 'love letter' to Thatcher, in that it portrayed her in almost exclusively positive light: deliberate, strong, decisive, thoughtful. All of these two dimensional portrayals serve only undermine the writer's intention (whatever that might be) and makes the whole easy to dismiss.

There are comments here that suggest a black and white version of events suggesting Argentina, in order to quell internal disquiet about the ruling dictatorship, invaded Las Malvinas, a long-standing dispute with Britain, to unite their nation and distract from domestic problems. Whilst this is true, the play's wilful ignorance of Britain's readiness to pay only token and cursory attention to US diplomatic efforts gives an unbalanced picture.

The Falklands conflict was, like most international disputes, very complicated, shrouded in doubt and manipulation. It was the product of both domestic realpolitik, international image, and personal ego. The Falklands Play prefers to give the impression that it was some brave, patriotic, moral battle of good (Britain) against evil (Argentina). Writers and film-makers have learned that you can't even portray the Second World War in such simplistic terms any more.

Thatcher was a shrewd political operator who saw an opportunity to depict Britain as the injured party in a minor dispute. She and her government undoubtedly played their part in amplifying and escalating a situation which could have been resolved without the loss of life which the dispute ultimately cost, for domestic reasons. Anyone who can remember the tub-thumbing, jingoistic nonsense which accompanied much of the coverage of the conflict will know just how well it played for the struggling Thatcher government. Ultimately, both Thatcher and Galtieri used the islands as a pawn for domestic political reasons. In reality, it should never have been allowed to get to the stage of armed conflict, and Britain, as much as Argentina, must share the blame for it doing so.


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