Days of Hope
Days of Hope is set in Spain in 1939, in the dying moments of the Spanish Civil War. The story begins with a family celebrating the marriage of the daughter, Sofia, to an English volunteer, but the wedding meal is tinged with anger at Franco and his fascists. They plan to escape that night to England with Sofia’s groom, Stanley, but before the plan is executed, various visitors over the course of the evening bring different perspectives upon their condemnation of Franco, of Mussolini and Hitler for their intervention, and ofBritain’s non-intervention… The family ends up being torn apart, trying to decide whether to flee or stay and fight.
Howard was inspired to write Days of Hope by the political events occurring in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, and was interested that the ideas of freedom and democracy would be seen differently through the eyes of a country which was just discovering their meaning. Relating this to his choice of the Spanish Civil War as a setting for his musical, he said, “I felt that that the best way to look at freedom and democracy was to look at it when it was collapsing and failing. A year ago [in 1990] everybody was writing plays about the eruption of freedom and I wanted to go back and ask questions. Why did democracy fail in Spain in 1939? What did we do to invite fascism on ourselves all overEurope?”
DAYS OF HOPE received its first performance on August 14th 1990 at The Newman Rooms in Oxford. It was revised and produced again at Hampstead Theatre in April 1991, subsequently touring England. During its 6-week run at Hampstead, a large group of the surviving International Brigaders saw the show and met its cast. It is not a conventional through-composed musical but a play punctuated by songs. Characters do not sing the songs ‘to’ other characters but to the audience directly, rather in the manner envisaged by Brecht & Weill.