The Candidate*** (Theatre Delicatessen)

Posted: May 7, 2015 in Theatre

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: 

They used to say that those who can do do and those who can’t do teach. Nowadays it seems more a case of anyone unfit for a worthy profession going into politics, with the proviso that such a person must be capable of being moulded to fit the required image. The Lab Collective’s 50-minute piece of interactive theatre does a hatchet job on modern politicians and the fact that it is scheduled to run after the General Election suggests that is intended less to influence how we vote than to make us reflect on what on Earth we have done (yet again). We are asked to use our smart phones to send texts (free) voting on choices that are put before us. Firstly, we must choose one from five candidates (all played by Omar Ibrahim), based solely on first impressions of superficial qualities. At this performance, unsurprisingly, the chosen candidate was bland and shallow, revealing no political leaning, except that a pro-European Union speech gave a faint hint that he did not belong to UKIP. The candidate having been chosen, an image consultant (Matthew Flacks) moves in to knock him into shape and we are offered more choices to decide how we want him to be. Lively exchanges between Ibrahim and Flacks and natural interplay with the audience make the process highly entertaining. The key point, that our own complacency towards politics gives us the politicians we deserve, is well made. When this candidate is asked to outline policy, he does what all politicians do and tub thumps about the National Health Service, coming up with just one constructive idea, which is “to make it better”. He has no firm ideology, spouts meaningless platitudes to tell us what he thinks we want to hear and he conforms to a squeaky clean image, with any indiscretions in his private life being air-brushed away quickly by the PR people. The choices offered in this show and the outcomes of the audience votes demonstrate how we are complicit in creating a circus of spin and delusion which reaches its nadir when Prime Minister’s Question Time resembles more a custard pie fight than a serious debate. Food for thought indeed, but, unfortunately, the chance to rectify things may not now come round for another four years and 51 weeks.

Performance date: 6 May 2015

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