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Election Drama

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
New Players Theatre, 8 May 2010

While the politicians wrangle, five playwrights wrestle with the consequences of the general election in this chocolate box of political theatre. Written in 12 hours after the polls closed, and rehearsed in fewer, the material springs from the minds of some of the stage’s hottest writing talent.

Rex Obano’s absorbing portrayal of a Prime Minister clinging to power explores a Pinter-esque personal landscape. Ben Porter’s Gordon Brown, shambling about, receives a toy drum for his birthday before facing a devastating cross examination from his own conscience. Anders Lustgarten’s prison-set piece seems a little heavy handed in comparison, but well-drawn characters and a barbed wit make this a laugh-out-loud comedy with killer lines to savour. Vincent Jerome's boisterous rudeboy lights up the stage, air thrusting and pacing like a caged tiger.

Most of the actors are reading from scripts so don’t expect spit and polish. A notable exception is Sian Robins-Grace, whose chat show host Hattie in Human Interest by Megan Ford is pitch-perfect, oozing with patronising smiles and eye flutters. She’s so comfortable in the role, it’s hard to credit the tiny rehearsal period. This speaks volumes for her talent.

The shadow of BBC Two’s acerbic satire The Thick of It hangs heavy over Phil Wilmot's piece, Act IV, which features a foul-mouthed campaign manager, played by Dan Ford, haranguing his defeated campaign team while piecing together a shattered ambition. Ford finds a nice blend of resentment and pathos, but a slight imbalance in the scene switches the focus away from him at just the wrong time.

The best is left till last – Che Walker’s searching dystopic vision of the near future makes the big points without preaching. Electoral paralysis has created a moral vacuum where the clerk wields the power, handing down social justice on a bigoted whim. This chilling and impassioned piece puts the finishing touches to an evening of from-the-hip writing that demonstrates a serious intent among theatre practitioners to keep making sense of the political world, whatever shape it takes when the dust settles.

- James Richards


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