The Fifth Column
80 years on from the start of the Spanish Civil War, a play by one of the greatest writers of the 20th century appears in London for the first time. Ernest Hemingway was in Madrid in 1937, during Franco’s siege, and wrote The Fifth Column there, under that bombardment. Philip Rawlings, a spy-catcher and covert member of the International Brigade, is engaged in a life-and-death struggle to unmask Fifth Columnists inside the besieged city. He is also passionately in love with a female war correspondent living in the hotel. Around them, the people of Madrid are trying, often comically, to survive; and the idealism of the young men under him, who came to fight with the International Brigades, is contrasted with the ruthlessness of civil war. Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls is the great classic of the Spanish Civil War, and we hear his own inimitable voice in The Fifth Column. Many of Hemingway’s novels are drawn from his own adventures and love affairs, and the play is based on real events and real people - the leading characters owe much not only to Hemingway and his lover Martha Gellhorn, one of the first female war correspondents, but also to Tom Wintringham ,“The English Captain” and Commander of the British Battalion and his lover Kitty Bowler.