IF YOU ever wondered how a dead tramp helped defeat Hitler’s Nazi war machine, the Guildford Fringe Festival can help.
In 1943, a plan was devised by a team, which included James Bond creator Ian Fleming. They took a tramp who had died in a Camden hospital and dropped him into the sea off the Spanish coast disguised as an Armed Forces major. The officer was discovered by the Spanish navy carrying fake letters.
Nazi intelligence got possession of the secret papers contained in his briefcase, and incredibly, became convinced by them that the target of allied invasion in the Mediterranean was Greece.
Hitler ordered a Panzer division of 90,000 soldiers to be moved to Greece and, as a result, when the allies attacked Sicily, there were far fewer casualties than had been feared. It was the greatest war-time deception since the Trojan horse. The story is retold in Dead In The Water, which is being staged at the back room of The Star Inn in Guildford on Saturday, July 12 and Sunday, July 13.
In this show, the emphasis has shifted from the spymasters at MI5, to the story of the all important corpse, Glyndwr Michael, the pathetic and inadvertent hero who had eaten rat poison in a Kings Cross warehouse. Ravaged by hunger and scorned by society, Glyn lies dying in St Pancras Hospital in Camden, haunted by visions of his past and witnessing confused portents of the peculiar fate that awaits him.
From this Paul Tibbey and Mark Sims weave a darkly comic musical. They have penned 11 original songs and created a production with an accidental fable-like quality. Tibbey says: “We are approaching this story from the point of view of this unwitting hero.
“We were interested in how he was completely unaware of his own importance, which is probably true of a lot of people. That makes it, in a sense, a universal story. Especially as lots of people suffered in the war but at the time didn’t realise the importance of their suffering.”
As Glyn is nursed through a high fever, he sees an imaginary intelligence officer who reveals fragments of his ultimate fate. “It’s a ghost story in reverse,” says Tibbey. “It has slightly creepy, ghostly elements in a darkly comic way.”
Sims adds: “We felt that this year, with the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, it could be an opportunity to bring a war-time narrative to those who don’t usually engage with history.
“We knew the story was best known through the classic movie The Man Who Never Was but we wanted to bring the story back to life and grab a different audience.”