A New Play for the General Election* (Finborough Theatre)

Posted: April 28, 2015 in Theatre

a-new-play-for-the-general-election-mainThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Traditionally, the theatre has been a place for escaping to during tedious Election campaigns, but no refuge can be found at the Finborough whilst this play is running. Chris New’s new work (is the word “new” in the title meant to be ambiguous?), devised with the cast, is set on the eve of the 2015 General Election and looks at modern politics through a very distorted lens. Daniel (Jumaane Brown) takes as a hostage “Tom” (Charlie Holloway), believing him to have been involved in the disappearance of his girlfriend Sonya. The hostage’s face can barely be seen, as he is trapped inside a hideous effigy of George Osborne, who, it transpires, he actually is. The early exchanges take the form of an interrogation in which a question is followed by reiteration; example – Daniel: “Where do you live now?”, Tom/George: “Where do I live now?” This pattern is repeated over and over again, serving no obvious purpose other than to get under the skin of the audience and the two actors themselves seem uncomfortable speaking the lines. When Sonya (Emily Houghton) arrives on the scene, she brings in tow another boyfriend, Richard (Tim Pritchett), who insists that her real name is Maggie, suggesting that some genuine political satire may be on the way. Alas Sonya/Maggie turns out to be no more than a hysterical young lady who rants incoherently, pausing regularly to vomit. And so the nonsense goes on. Presumably, New intends his work to be seen as a parable, alluding to a disadvantaged and disorganised electorate, mired in spin and false promises, coming up against a privileged elite who will not be dislodged whatever the outcome of the vote. But that is a guess, because the play is so oblique and so divorced from reality that it becomes difficult to extract any clear messages from it. If New wanted to model this absurdist piece on works by Beckett or Pinter, he has failed miserably. The play has neither the loaded dialogue nor the rippling undercurrents to merit comparisons with those writers. Perhaps he intended it all to be tongue in cheek, but again he fails, with hardly any humour at all rising to the surface. It is quite an achievement by all involved here to have created a 45 minute play that feels as if it is longer than King Lear. So it’s back to the telly; the Election itself has got to be more entertaining than this.

Performance date: 27 April 2015

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