Theatre Uncut (The Kings Arms, Salford)

A mixed bag with some pieces proving to be more successful than others.

Theatre Uncut
Theatre Uncut

The short politically inspired plays that comprise Theatre Uncut have been made available online so that companies around the world can perform them without incurring costs.

So far, this year's plays have been downloaded over 340 times in 25 different countries. The idea is to give writers the chance to respond to world events. However, writers sometimes seem intimidated by the subject matter as if concerned their work will only seem like ‘real’ political drama if it is stuffed with facts and figures or lengthy speeches that sound like they have been adapted from The Today Programme.

Vivienne Franzmann tries to offer the best of both worlds by mixing the personal with the political in The Most Horrific. A couple have an intense conversation full of halting pauses as they take a rather personal interest in reports of the latest celeb to be accused of sexual offences. Meantime a pub bore rattles off political horror stories and is rated by an on-stage critic who encourages him to be more abusive about bankers and to add more sex.

Franzmann may be having a dig at the trivialising effect of the media or even off-setting criticism by acknowledging the weaknesses in the play but, although imaginatively staged, there is no denying that the content is an emotionally numbing litany of tales that crop up in almost any newspaper.

Director Rob Johnston borrows from A Christmas Carol to tell of right wing MP Ira Profitt being haunted by a conscience figure reminding him that, in the past, he held decidedly different views on education. The speeches in Ira Profitt and The Man are lyrical when relating to personal matters but those on educational aspects become too lengthy to hold the attention. They really do sound like they have been pulled from a politics debate.

The short time available places some limitations on Re-Set Everything but it is a refreshing use of black comedy to explore the ludicrous lengths to which a family is driven by the imposition of the bedroom tax. Inua Ellam’s script makes excellent use of an increasingly farcical situation to draw out the absurdities of government policy. Brevity compels a number of contrivances but these could be resolved with a longer running time would allow more natural development.

The most successful piece is The Finger of God in which Anders Lustgarten ambitiously pushes the concept of political theatre to include also an analysis of macho culture. In an effort to re-invigorate sales the National Lottery exploits the trend of resentment towards those perceived as undeserving by introducing penalties as well as prizes.

This prompts men to demonstrate their masculinity by taking part even though the penalties are becoming harsher. This is an excellent play both thought provoking and entertaining and delivered with a perfect mixture of gleeful cynicism and deep stupidity by a skilled cast.

Dave Cunningham