April to July 2012 | Summer Season


by John McGrath

Tuesday 22 May to Saturday 16 June 2012


For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here

The first London production in over 45 years

★★★★★ Five Stars, The Guardian 
★★★★★ Five Stars, WhatsOnStage
★★★★ Four Stars, One Stop Arts
★★★★ Four Stars, Exeunt Magazine
★★★★ Four Stars, Fulham Chronicle 

"It is an inefficient and obsolete weapon, sirs, of which our Army has many thousands: and you have, in your wisdom, asked me to guard it with my life, thinking that I would indeed do anything, anything, to preserve and shelter from all harm, a thing so beautifully useless, so poignantly past it, so wistfully outdated, as my youth, or a Bofors gun. I would, and I shall, lay down my life for it."

Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of playwright John McGrath, and unseen in a professional production in London since 1966...

Germany, 1954. A bitterly cold winter in the early years of the Cold War. In a wind-swept corner of a British Army base, six soldiers are posted to guard an obsolete anti-aircraft gun. Their task is futile and the gunners know it. Placed under the command of an inexperienced teenager, their boredom turns to frustration and their thoughts turn to trouble as the banter and squabbles of the barrack room harden into a battle of wills between a callow NCO who just wants to serve out his time and a disillusioned fighting man with his finger on the self-destruct button...

Directed by acclaimed new emerging director Robert Hastie, John McGrath’s startling, darkly comic depiction of young men coming to terms with a new, inhuman era of warfare is based on his own experience of National Service in the 1950s. Originally produced at Hampstead Theatre in 1966 with a cast including James Bolam, Barry Jackson and Brian Murphy, Events While Guarding The Bofors Gun was filmed in 1968 by Jack Gold as The Bofors Gun, starring David Warner, Ian Holm, Nicol Williamson and John Thaw.


Playwright John McGrath (1935-2002) was a prolific writer best known for his work with the 7:84 Theatre Company and for his extraordinary commitment to the importance of popular theatre. Born in Liverpool and raised in Wales, his writing career began at the BBC, where he wrote and directed many of the early episodes of Z Cars He continued to work in television and film throughout his career including writing the screenplay for the films Billion Dollar Brain (1967) and The Bofors Gun (1968) , but his chief passion was for the theatre. In 1971, he founded 7:84 Theatre Company, deriving its name from the statistic that 7% of the UK population own 84% of the wealth, dedicated to taking popular, political theatre far and wide, particularly to towns and villages usually considered to be off the cultural map, and often presenting plays specially written for the company by McGrath. His plays include Random Happenings in the Hebrides (1970), The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil (1973, and subsequently televised), Fish in the Sea (1972), The Game's A Bogey (1974), Little Red Hen (1975), Yobbo Nowt (1975), Out of Our Heads (1976), Joe's Drum (1979), Blood Red Roses (1980), Mairi Mhor (1985, and subsequently televised), Border Warfare (1989), Watching for Dolphins (1992) and Hyperlynx (2001). He also wrote two seminal books on popular political theatre – A Good Night Out: Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form (1981) and The Bone Won't Break: On Theatre and Hope in Hard Times (1990). He received Lifetime Achievement Awards form both BAFTA and the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and Honorary Doctorates form the University of Stirling and the University of London. John McGrath died in 2002. Michael Billington wrote in his obituary: “No one since Joan Littlewood did more to advance the cause of popular theatre in Britain than John McGrath”.


Director Robert Hastie was Associate Director for Sixty-Six Books which opened the new Bush Theatre where he also directed the world premieres of In The Land of Uz by Neil LaBute, The Middle Man by Anthony Weigh, David and Goliath by Andrew Motion, Snow In Sheffield by Helen Mort and A Lost Expression by Luke Kennard. He was Associate Director of Much Ado About Nothing starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate (Novello Theatre). He co-founded The Lamb Players, for whom he has co-directed As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice. He has assisted Josie Rourke, Peter Gill and Laurie Sansom, and is an Associate Artist of the National Youth Theatre and a Connections Director for the National Theatre Connections programme. Robert originally trained as an actor at RADA, and his acting credits include work at the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, with Cheek By Jowl, Frantic Assembly and Headlong, and in the West End.


Charles Aitken | O’Rourke
Trained at RADA.
Theatre includes Little Eagles (Royal Shakespeare Company and Hampstead Theatre), King Lear, As You Like It, Antony and Cleopatra (Royal Shakespeare Company and Roundhouse), The Drunks (Royal Shakespeare Company), Othello (Frantic Assembly and Lyric Hammersmith – nominated for an Ian Charleson Award), The Taming Of The Shrew (Wiltons Music Hall), Midnight Cowboy (Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh), Paradise Lost (Oxford Stage Company), Hair (Gate Theatre,London) and London Assurance (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester).
Film and Television includes Bonkers, The Girl On The Train and Love Nest.

Lee Armstrong | Evans
Trained at East 15 Acting School.
Theatre includes The Europeans, The Rose and the Ring, A Winter’s Tale, Three Sisters, A View from a Bridge (East 15).
Lee is also a member of the National Youth Theatre.

Phil Cheadle | Flynn
Trained at RADA.
Theatre includes Neighbourhood Watch, Dear Uncle (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), Bedlam, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (Shakespeare's Globe), Knives and Hens, Tartuffe (Arcola Theatre), All My Sons (Curve Theatre, Leicester), Mrs Affleck (National Theatre), Far From the Madding Crowd (English Touring Theatre), If I Were You (Library Theatre, Manchester), The Tempest, Saint Joan (AndBC Theatre Tour), Macbeth (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Changeling (Cheek by Jowl), A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Creation Theatre), Strawberry Fields (Pentabus) and As You Like It (Northcott Theatre, Exeter).
Film includes John Carter of Mars, Comes a Bright Day and A Touch of Sadness.
Television includes Inside the Titanic, Coronation Street and Inspector Lynley.

Michael Shelford | Rowe
Trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Theatre includes The Boy On The Swing (Arcola Theatre), The Daughter-In-Law (New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme), On The Razzle, Romeo and Juliet (Bristol Old Vic), Gizmo Love (Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol), Days Of Significance, Three Sisters, The Importance of Being Earnest (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School) and Aladdin (Redgrave Theatre, Bristol).
Television includes Lewis and Mrs Briggs.
Radio includes Smiley’s People, The Archers, Ruminations, Slaughterhouse 5. Michael was a member of the BBC Radio Repertory Company from 2009 to 2010. He was a runner up for the BBC Carleton Hobbs Radio Drama Prize and a Spotlight Prize Nominee 2009.

Mark Stanley | Crawley
Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Theatre includes 'Tis a Pity She’s a Whore (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Still Life, Six Characters Looking for an Author, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Tipping the Velvet, Hamlet, The Trojan Women, The Relapse, One For the Road and The Three Sisters (Guildhall School of Music and Drama).
Film includes Captain America.
Television includes Game of Thrones and the forthcoming Air Aces.

Greg Tannahill | Second Lieutenant Pickering / Cook - Private Samuel / German
Trained at LAMDA.
Theatre includes Cabaret, Arcadia, Dancing At Lughnasa, Our Country's Good, A Gloriously Mucky Business, As You Like It, Some Voices, The Cherry Orchard, The Double Dealer, The Merchant of Venice (LAMDA), The Shoemaker's Holiday (Sam Wanamaker Festival for LAMDA and Shakespeare's Globe), Irons (Local Girl Productions) and The Possibilities, Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Year Out Drama).
Film includes Skeletons Warming Themselves.

Samuel Taylor | Shone
Trained at LAMDA.
Theatre includes The Art Of Persuasion, 50 Years New, The Girl Who Lost Her Voice, 40 Years On (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice (The Lamb Players), The Talented Mr Ripley, Redemption Over Hammersmith Broadway, A Woman Of No Importance, The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot, Scenes From An Execution (LAMDA), Beachy Head, Mile End (Analogue) and Macbeth (Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham).
Radio includes Life Begins At Crawley.
Television includes Holby City.

Anthony Topham | Sergeant Walker
Theatre includes Rhinestone Mondays (UK Tour), Look Back in Anger (Eastern European première, Slovenia), Mamma Mia! (Prince of Wales), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (European tour) and A Slice of Saturday Night (King's Head Theatre).
Film includes Soul Mate, Operation Chastity, The Silence, London Town and Claude’s Room.
Television includes Casualty, Relative Strangers and Whodunnit.

Alex Warren | Featherstone
Trained at LAMDA.
Theatre includes Hamlet (Shakespeare's Globe and National Tour), Mad Forest (BAC), The Odyssey (National Theatre), Twelfth Night (LAMDA) and 20 Cigarettes (National Youth Theatre).
Film includes Kissing And... ,7 Lives and From Nowhere.
Television includes Holby City, Being Human and Aces Falling.


“The production is as good as anything you will find in London theatre.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“This served as my first visit to the Finborough and I can’t wait to return if this is the quality of their productions. Engaging, ambiguous, intelligent, and bold are the words that come to mind to describe this play. Go and see it, not only because it’s great but because in this cast we are privileged to be seeing some true stars of the future.” Colin Appleby, Bargain Theatre

“As ever, one leaves the Finborough wondering how its rediscoveries could have been left gathering dust for so long”. Sarah Penny, Exeunt

“It is 10 years since the playwright John McGrath died; 46 since this play was last seen in London. Both the man and his work are honoured in this superb revival by Robert Hastie” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The Finborough - which has admirable form in reviving the often neglected work of left-leaning 20th-century dramatists - the opportunity to see a well-performed, well-directed staging of a McGrath play should not be wasted.” Ciaran Bermingham, Morning Star

“A thrilling evening at the theatre” Colin Appleby, Bargain Theatre

“An earthy, scathing play about the futility of imperialist ambitions in the postwar era, 'Events…' has aged well: minor cosmetic tweaks could easily relocate it to present Afghanistan.” Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

“Profoundly affecting”. Sarah Penny, Exeunt

“Exceedingly chilling like the icy wind that blows through the military base, this production makes your blood run cold.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Seething tension...For a play first performed more than 40 years ago, Events Whilst Guarding the Bofors Gun still maintains an almost frightening intensity, strong enough to unsettle even today’s audiences.” Rebecca Hussien, A Younger Theatre

“Prolific, impassioned and wonderfully eclectic, the late John McGrath (he was one of the key writers on 'Z-Cars'!) deserves modern reappraisal just as much as his peers Arnold Wesker and Edward Bond.” Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

“And it's salutary to be reminded that McGrath was one of our finest postwar political dramatists.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Ten years after McGrath's death and over 45 years since this play was last seen in London this is a worthwhile revival. I hope it we may see more of his plays brought to life again in the near future.” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide

“A must-see...Combines seamlessly a grittiness, rawness, plus a leavening humour, borne from real-life experience, and a state-of-the-nation play: A sort of Journey’s End for post-imperial conscription Britain” Traffic Light Theatregoer

“The men wrestle with their confined space like animals in a cage, the raw masculine energy constantly threatening to spill over into the audience.” Rebecca Hussien, A Younger Theatre

“The cast is outstanding” Rebecca Hussien, A Younger Theatre

“A uniformly strong cast matched by clever, under-stated but resonant design, lighting, sound effects and staging.” Traffic Light Theatregoer Blog

“The cast is excellent throughout” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Exceptionally well performed” Chris Hislop, One Stop Arts

“The actors are all brilliant, bar none” Chris Hislop, One Stop Arts

“Charles Aitken conveys a combination of Irish intellectualism – McGrath had a keen ear for the phrasing and cadence of the accent – and unnerving aggression.” Sarah Penny, Exeunt

“Played with incredible intensity by Charles Aitken.” Natasha Tripney, The Stage

“A bravura performance from Charles Aitken, both frightening and touching” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide

“Charles Aitken as the stricken solider is both terrifying and beguiling, an utter force of nature” Rebecca Hussien, A Younger Theatre

“Charles Aitken is outstanding as the deeply troubled Gunner O’Rourke” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Charles Aitken is simply incredible as the passionate madman, managing to portray a man who's lost the will to live, whose bitterness has led him to violent action. It's a meaty part and Aitken is wonderful to watch” Chris Hislop, One Stop Arts

“A tour de force performance by the mesmerising and powerful Charles Aitken” Colin Appleby, Bargain Theatre 

“Charles Aitken brilliantly invests O'Rourke with a mix of fierce intelligence, sardonic humour and wild self-destructiveness.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Phil Cheadle as a bitter Ulsterman and Michael Shelford as a narcoleptic west countryman also stand out” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Lee Armstrong nicely conveys Evans's fumbling naivety” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Lee Armstrong is touchingly awkward as the young officer” Natasha Tripney, The Stage

“Michael Shelford as Gunner Rowe...is superb.” Sarah Penny, Exeunt

“A sterling production directed by Robert Hastie” Traffic Light Theatregoer Blog

“The set design is sublime - turning a small theatre in the hottest week of the year into a wide, open gun platform in the middle of a blizzard is a work of art, and James Perkins' hinted addition of painted girders (with the shadows, but not the actual girders, painted onto the walls) is very striking indeed” Chris Hislop, One Stop Arts



"The play is written with cold wrath and a biting funniness." The Observer

"Shattering and sublime." The Sunday Times

"A compelling and forceful drama of barrack room life." Variety

"Warmly lit with humour and compassion." The Scotsman

"A piece of writing to be respected: for the depth and truth of its characters, for the riveting power of its dialogue, for its pungent humour and for the fierce dramatic tension...I should hate to think - and cannot believe - that this will be the last we shall hear of it." What's On In London


“A decisive influence on late twentieth century theatre.” The Independent
“He had an ungovernable faith in theatre and its capacity to change people’s lives.” The Guardian
"A superb example of the way the stage can be used simultaneously for pleasure and political polemic" The Glasgow Herald on The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil
"As slanted as a mountain top and as exhilarating as sking down it. And with enough faith and malice to move a mountain. I hope." The Guardian on The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil
“That relatively rare item, a necessary piece of theatre.” The Guardian on Hyperlynx
“Never forgets to be entertainment.” The Telegraph on Yobbo Nowt
“Irresistible.” The Financial Times on The Game’s A Bogey


Tuesday, 22 May - Saturday, 16 June 2012

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm.
Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm.
Saturday matinees at 3.00pm (from the second week of the run).

Tuesday 22 May – Sunday 3 June 2012

Tickets £14, £10 concessions

except Tuesday Evenings £10 all seats, and Saturday evenings £14 all seats.
Previews (21 and 22 May 2012) £10 all seats.

£6 tickets for under 30’s for performances from Tuesday to Sunday of the first week when booked online only.

£11 tickets for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on the first Saturday of the run only.

Tuesday 5 June - Saturday 16 June 2012

Tickets £16, £12 concessions

except Tuesday Evenings £12 all seats, and Saturday evenings £16 all seats.

STAGETEXT captioned performance for deaf and hard of hearing people  – Saturday, 9 June 2012 at 3.00pm

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here



Image: Derek Spence

Written by John McGrath

Directed by Robert Hastie

Designed by James Perkins

Lighting by Nicholas Holdrige

Costume Design by Sophia Simensky

Music by Michael Bruce

Sound by Tom Meehan

Presented by Pennard Road Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre