“Sex. Politics. Greed.” reads
the tagline for The Fix, a musical by John
Dempsey (book and lyrics) and Dana P Rowe (music). Throw in
‘Drugs’ as well and you have a rather neat précis of the show's main
The plot revolves around Cal Chandler
(Louis Maskell), whose power-hungry mother Violet (Liz May Brice)
and Machiavellian uncle Grahame (Miles Western) groom him for
political office after his presidential candidate father (Peter
Gallagher) goes one better than Bill Clinton and dies whilst having
sexual relations with his secretary.
Cal isn’t too keen, but is sucked into
Violet and Grahame’s plotting, first earning some stripes in the
army, then marrying a “suitable” wife before becoming a local
council member and then governor. He pays a high price for his rapid
rise to the top, becoming entangled with drugs, an ex-stripper and
the local mob.
The staging and direction by Michael
Strassen is minimalist and dark (in both senses of the word),
providing a suitably edgy atmosphere. The cast all bite into their
roles with relish, but the three central performances in particular
Brice’s Violet is perfectly judged – a
grimly determined, gin-swilling political matriarch committed to
elevating her son to the presidency whatever it takes, but enlisting
others to do most of the dirty work.
Western’s Grahame is bitter and
scheming, using Cal as a vessel to act out political dreams that were
denied by his brother and childhood polio. His caustic delivery of
the script is excellent.
But it is Maskell as Cal who stands out.
His vocals are particularly strong, running the full range from
boyish vulnerability to hard-nosed defiance. Some of his phrasing is
slightly unusual, but in the best possible way; his voice, together
with a magnetic stage presence, set him apart and he is undoubtedly
one to watch out for in the future.
As seems to happen fairly regularly in
London’s fringe theatres, the music on occasion obscured the
lyrics, despite the actors giving their all. Hopefully this can be
addressed as it did sap some of the power from the piece.
Nevertheless, this is a strong show with
an excellent cast and is definitely worth a visit, whether your
interest is politics, musical theatre or spotting the potential big
names of the future.