Roy Smiles' new play about the almost-election of Robert Kennedy is an
uncompromising account of the fraught relationship between politics
and the press. Set on the night of his assassination, Kennedy meets
with three highly opinionated journalists who are initially
unsympathetic towards his campaign.
Reflecting on the damage done in Vietnam, voicing scepticism about
Johnson's policies and tackling the latent racism of middle class
white people, The Last Pilgrim is politically dense. The
intensity of the mood is not lightened by any emotional levity either,
as the second half sees a teary personal confession from Tom Quinn,
one of the journalists. The influence of his personal loss is brought
to bear upon Kennedy's attitude and his interaction with James and
Nancy, the other two hacks. Brendan Hughes' portrayal of the crumbling
reporter is both engaged and engaging; when the conscience of a
hard-faced journalist is pricked, it overspills.
Tim Stark's direction is heavily stylised and lives up to his name:
the production feels taut and controlled, and theses is an apt
sparsity to Alex Breeden's design.
Though the presentation of The Last Pilgrim leaves little
wanting, it's difficult to get excited about the subject matter. Four
people in a room waiting for election results feels like something
we've seen before and, though necessarily a tense situation, there's
little variety in mood and tone. Although the conversation that takes
place during this dramatic recreation is often interesting, the roles
aren't quite meaty enough to give it a really climactic rise and fall.
Sean Patterson as Kennedy does a lot of awkward floating around the
stage, and there's an excess of quoting, both of which lessen tim
gripping theatricality of the event.