Political satire is like a glass of freshly-squeezed lime juice; it needs just the right quantity of honey to make it palatable as well as healthful, and to inhibit instant regurgitation. Not an easy thing to pull off successfully, but Richard Marsh and Natalia Sheppard's Nicked manages to do just that.
Just a year ago, Britain faced a political if not a constitutional crisis. There was one man determined to stay on in Downing Street, another who wanted to be there instead, and a third who suddenly discovered that he held the balance of power. Or did/does he? A cast of eight makes all this plain – as plain, at any rate, as British politics ever can be. Or ever were, for that matter.
You can guess who our (dramatically flawed) hero might be. We meet a whole raft of political wheeler-dealers as well. Jason Langley is the fleet-footed -– but not, perhaps, equally fleet-witted Nick – flurried by a vast amount of completely contradictory advice and incentives from colleagues, would-be coalition partners (especially Sam Hodges' David), his wife and an extremely forceful personification of Britannia herself.
Not so much an iron lady with her gold breastplate and fletching-crowned helmet and definitely a feminine force to be reckoned with, Amy Booth-Steel is very funny as she winches Nick up to his moment of decision. Peter F Gardiner and Ross Green do an equally hilarious Tweedledum and Tweedledee double act as the two Eds and Alexander Delamere switches effortlessly between three very different politicians – Gordon, Vince and William.
The score is full of bouncy numbers (Paul Harvard is the hard-working musical director) and the lyrics have bite as well as wit and some clever rhymes. Takis' designs work wonders with a fairly confined space and what I suspect is a very small production budget. Nifty footwork throughout means that Alistair David's choreography makes a proper impact and director Pia Furtado keeps it all as tight and taut as a third recount.
By the way, with political satire, there's nothing like keeping completely up-to-date. We've a referendum on 5 May in connexion with the proposed alternative voting system. New material is promised to reflect this event. What's more, paying punters for performances before that Thursday can see the updated version free of charge. How many other festivals are as generous as HighTide?