Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough (Park Theatre)

Posted: May 1, 2019 in Theatre

Writer: Ben Alderton      Director: Roland Reynolds

⭐️

If anyone seeks to prove that British politics are broken, surely there is enough evidence in the present day, without having to delve into history to find more. However, writer Ben Alderton seems to think otherwise with his new play, a crude and obvious satire that is four years past its sell-by date.

The play’s title is a quote from former leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband and the words are repeated here by Ned Contraband (Ben Hood), fictional leader of the Red Party, to mask his perceived inadequacies. His opponent, Prime Minister and leader of the Blue Party is David Carter (Alderton himself), an arrogant toff. Carter treats his obsequious deputy, Nick Clog (James Bryant) in a  way that would draw outrage from the RSPCA, but quakes before his party’s election campaign manager, Glyniss, played by Annie Tyson in the manner of a dominatrix. Both party leaders are portrayed as imbeciles, Carter wants to be hip and Contraband needs a break from his hippy guru, Will (Michael Edwards). Alderton’s point is that, when the electorate has to choose between two idiots, its decision will rest solely on how they present themselves.

Director Roland Reynolds’ production has the feel of a student revue, packed with juvenile gags, most of which misfire. Alderton introduces two relatively serious characters as observers of and commentators on the mayhem. Patrick (Mikhail Sen) is a consultant brought in to advise the Blues on election strategy and thought a genius when he sparks the idea of harnessing the power of social media. Sharon Slaughter (Cassandra Hercules) is a relentlessly aggressive adviser to the Reds, convinced from the outset that Contraband is destined for failure.

With further names such as George Oblong, Nigel Garage and Jeremy *unt being bandied around, it seems reasonable to ask why Alderton thought it necessary to disguise the characters at all. On further reflection, he might have realised that a better way to dodge litigation could have been to make the facts underlying the satire more accurate. For example is it credible that the leader of the Lib/Dems would have participated in Tory party strategy meetings for the 2015 General Election? We have great traditions of caricaturing politicians, the art lying in accentuating and magnifying real traits and real events. Too much of what we see here is stale and, politically or in any other sense, simply incorrect.

With the real figures behind the key characters in this farce consigned long ago to either obscurity or Facebook, we ask what is the point of it and then Alderton gives us an answer. He jettisons the jokes and offers up a long scene that plays like a party political broadcast on behalf of the Momentum group. A white-bearded man named Corbz (Edward Halsted) appears in the guise of the Grim Reaper and the now disillusioned  Patrick launches into a diatribe against the toffs and the privileged who dominate politics. Give the young a chance, they agree, settling on “for the many and not the few” as their slogan. Bearing in mind that the Parliamentary constituency in which The Park Theatre is located is Islington North, could this be a case of preaching to the already converted?

Performance date: 26 April 2019

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

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