FIVE former Formula 1 World Driver’s Champions will visit York Theatre Royal to attend a Charity Gala Reception and watch new play The Guinea Pig Club on Saturday night.
They include British Drivers Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell, three-time world champion Niki Lauda, 1979 champion Jody Scheckter and the only man to have won the World Championship on 2 and 4 wheels, John Surtees. They will be joined by Sir Stirling Moss, often referred to as the greatest driver never to win the World Championship.
Former Ferrari and now Mercedes GP Team Principal Ross Brawn is also on the guest list, as the De Grey Rooms in York becomes an F1 ‘Hall of Fame’ for the evening. Continuing the speedy theme, Richard Noble – World Land Speed Record holder from 1983-1997, Bob Tyrrell – formerly of Tyrrell Racing, Lotus F1 Commercial Director Federico Gastaldi and former driver John Wilson will also be in attendance.
The Guinea Pig Club is a new production based upon the famous group of horrifically burnt WWII fighter pilots and aircrew. The play is written by Susan Watkins, widow of former F1 Medical Chief Prof Sid Watkins who also contributed to the play along with his Guinea Pig Club chum Dr Sandy Saunders (who will be attending the event). Sid and Sandy, both from Liverpool, trained at University of Liverpool medical school together and became life-long friends.
Susan said “Sid had always been interested by The Guinea Pig Club through his friendship with Sandy. It’s an incredible story and just needed to be told. After his crash and operations, Sandy was inspired by Archibald McIndoe to retrain as a doctor. There was certainly crossover between the pioneering work McIndoe did on burns and that which Sid was involved in with motor racing. I am thrilled to welcome so many very talented people to see the play which I worked on with Sid and to help raise money for such worthwhile causes as The Blond McIndoe Research Foundation, Facing the World and The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust”
As Sid was known for his friendship with Ayrton Senna, Susan has also invited the writer of the film Senna, Manish Pandey to the gala reception.
The Guinea Pig Club has played to standing ovations on several occasions since opening on 5 October and runs until Sat 27 Oct. The play focuses on the injured airmen, their surgeon, and their Sussex military hospital, Queen Victoria’s. Their pioneering and maverick plastic surgeon, Archibald McIndoe will be played by Graeme Hawley, 37, who played one of Coronation Street’s most infamous villains, was nominated for Villain of the Year in the 2009 and 2011 British Soap Awards for his role as John Stape.
At the outset of World War II cosmetic surgeon Archibald McIndoe – whose expertise in fashioning the noses of starlets brings him fame but not fulfillment- must abandon plans for retirement to pioneer the most challenging procedures in surgical history, including the complete reconstruction of the human face.
But McIndoe soon discovers that all his efforts in the operating theatre are futile unless he can also save the shattered man behind the face. ‘For what good is a face without a man – a whole man?’ This then becomes his mission – and his own salvation.
Unconvinced and antagonistic toward McIndoe’s goal is Rusty, a suicidal Spitfire pilot burned beyond all recognition. Yet McIndoe will not be stopped, even if it means persuading a young nurse, Alice, to ‘play up to Rusty’ to help him envisage a meaningful future. The maverick McIndoe then tackles the attitude of the rest of society. ‘Don’t turn away’ becomes his battle cry.