The Young Vic has given a space to Theatre Uncut to present six short political plays, with no editorial input from its management. This is a great opportunity for Theatre Uncut's producers and a commendable demonstration of faith on behalf of the theatre.
On the face of it, this is a noble enterprise. The plays are all available, for a limited time, to be played anywhere, with no royalty fees. Several international, as well as British theatres are currently producing their choice from this repertoire with the aim of spreading their messages far and wide. If only the plays on offer were of high calibre.
Neil LaBute's Pick One has three American politicians discussing which ethnic group should be bumped off to improve society for the white majority. The premise is so absurd as to be risible, and the fact of America having a black president ignored. This is lazy, silly writing. Amanda by Kieran Hurley is a pseudo-poetic whine by a politician who is finding her job hard work. Her idealism has slipped and, lounging in her comfortable home, she is finding work overwhelming. This does identify a modern conundrum, but the piece doesn't earn its place as political theatre.
Mark Thomas' Church Forced to Close its Gates after Font used as Wash Basin by Migrants (phew) brings some entertaining wit and a narrative at last. An amoral newspaper proprietor is held captive by his organ's cleaners on behalf of the migrants he persecutes in his pages. There is a Dario Fo-esque brio here, but Thomas' exuberant real-life work in leading demonstrations outside tabloid newspaper offices and other dens of corruption is a better call to action than this sketch. To his credit, Thomas, in a post-show ‘discussion', pledges to rewrite the piece to enhance its immediacy. The rigour in his wish to improve his work would have been welcome in the evening's output as a whole.
Recipe by Rachel Chavkin is incomprehensible, sub-Brechtian tosh. The Wing by Clara Brennan features a working class father and his university-educated daughter squabbling about important contemporary issues, and contains some proper meatiness, but the transformation of his right arm into a wing as he defends his joining of the EDL (geddit?!) is laughably crass. Finally, Capitalism is Crisis by Tim Price is easily the most interesting piece, examining the downsides of the Occupy initiative at St. Paul's, and the perils of lack of leadership for modern movements for change.
Theatre Uncut have appropriated the moniker of a crusading group who are serious about addressing the inequalities and injustices of a selfish political system. On this evidence, and to deserve the ‘Uncut' name, they need to find writers who can address these crucial topics with significantly more sophistication than most of this batch, with some stimuli for real, plausible action to counteract corporate and political wrongs. All of the performances, incidentally, are first-rate.
Theatre Uncut continues at the Young Vic until 23 November 2013