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The Walworth Farce (Tour - Salford)
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Don Carlo

2nd May 1997

By • West End
WOS Rating:
Jack Thorne's triptych of duologues is set over the course of that infamous night in 1997 when Tony Blair et al swept to a landslide election victory on the wave of Cool Britannia promising that things could only get better. It's a quiet mediation on the experiences of three very different pairings, each affected by the result to varying degrees.

The one with most to lose is ageing Tory MP Robert (Geoffrey Beevers), who knows his fate is sealed and, together with his stoical wife (Linda Broughton), must contemplate a sickly retirement.

Next up is shy Lib Dem supporter Ian (Hugh Skinner), who's been frog-marched home from an election party for a night of passion by inebriated Sarah (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), but turns out to be the "wrong man at the wrong time". Her botched seduction soon descends into a confessional about a previous abuse and failed marriage, though the true nature of her experience remains frustratingly shrouded in whispers.

Finally, we have Yorkshire schoolboys Jake (James Barrett) and Will (Jamie Samuel), the former a Labour supporting soon-to-be Cambridge student, a young Blair in the making, the latter longing for his friend to set aside his ambition and consummate their love in Leeds. As they dress for school they sing along to D:Ream's depressingly ironic election anthem and invent mnemonics to remember the names of the new cabinet.

Thorne uses the pairings as neat allegories for each party's fate – the old-fashioned and thanklessly discarded Tories, the kind but impotent Lib Dems, the bright but selfish young Labour – and evokes clearly a sense of the before, during and after of that memorable night. As Jake studies the morning's headlines, one can't help but cringe at the Mirror headline (a simple 'Yes') and remember how many times we asked each other “did you stay up for Portillo?”.

The acting is impeccable in George Perrin’s production, performed on a catwalk stage replete with segueing double bed. And although Thorne's play is lacking an over-arching cohesive message, the dialogue is rich in character detail and shines a spotlight on some humble but significant untold stories from the night a nation dared to dream.


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