Lloyd Webber joins campaign to overturn 50-year-old guilty verdict against Stephen Ward
As ''Stephen Ward'' the musical begins previews this week, its composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is joining a campaign to overturn the 50-year-old guilty verdict against the disgraced man of the show’s title - and new claims surface that the scapegoat at the centre of the Profumo Affair was murdered
Andrew Lloyd Webber will today (2 December 2013) attend a press conference held by QC Geoffrey Robertson, who this week publishes a new book Stephen Ward Was Innocent, OK, and makes an application to the Critical Cases Reviews Commission to overturn the verdict against Ward.
According to Robertson, the central charge – that Ward was living off the "immoral earnings" of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies – was incorrect; in fact, Ward, a society osteopath and portrait painter, was more likely supplementing the women financially.
Other crucial trial errors, writes Robertson, include Keeler perjuring herself, leading inferences about the absence of Ward's friends from the court and the judge's decision not to halt the trial after Ward's suicide attempt.
The 1963 Profumo Affair, one of Britain's most notorious political scandals, takes its name from the then Minister of War John Profumo, who reputedly shared a mistress, Christine Keeler, with a Soviet spy and went on to lie when questioned about it in the House of Commons. The headline-grabbing affair shocked society and rocked the self-righteous Conservative Government of Harold Macmillan, leading ultimately to the resignations of both Profumo and Macmillan and ushering in a new era, as the "stuffy" 1950s gave way to the "Swinging Sixties".
Ward was at the centre of it. He met the young Keeler in a West End night club and went on to introduce her to Profumo at a country house party. Later, when an ex-boyfriend of Keeler's fired a gun at Ward's West End flat while she and Rice Davies were inside, the media started to investigate. In the wake of the ensuing political scandal, Ward was put on trial for "living off immoral earnings". He took a fatal overdose of barbiturates on the last day of his trial. He fell into a coma and died three days later.
According to another new book, as reported in The Sunday Times, Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril's The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward, Ward was a murder victim as well as an establishment scapegoat. They cite a former MI6 agent who claims that Ward was force-fed the sleeping pills that led to his apparent suicide.
Stephen Ward receives its world premiere at the West End's Aldwych Theatre on 19 December 2013 (previews from 3 December). Directed by former National Theatre artistic director Richard Eyre, the show marks the first collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyricist Don Black and playwright Christopher Hampton (who has written the book) since their 1993 musical Sunset Boulevard.
The new musical stars Alexander Hanson as Stephen Ward, Charlotte Spencer as Christine Keeler, Charlotte Blackledge as Mandy Rice Davies, Anthony Calf as Lord Astor, Daniel Flynn as John Profumo and Joanna Riding as Valerie Hobson.
The production is designed by Rob Howell with choreography by Stephen Mear, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Paul Groothuis. Stephen Ward, Lloyd Webber's first new musical since 2010's Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies, is produced by Robert Fox Limited and the Really Useful Group.