This review was originally written for The Public Review.
In answering the question ‘Do we all get more right wing in times of austerity?’, BAREtruth Theatre and Theatre Uncut present seven short plays, stage-read for an evening in association with Amnesty International.
A strong piece Pick One by Neil Labute kicks off the evening by postulating the removal of black people from America. Three politicians or think tank strategists discuss the merit, potential benefits and even the logistics of such policy. It is certainly provocative but in a way, it is not beyond imagination since this kind of discussion could in fact takes place behind closed doors. As a commentary on the democratic political system, it is certainly worth noting and works rather well as an opener. A gentler play Capitalism In Crisis by Tim Price follows with experiences from two participants in the Occupy London campaign at St Pauls. As a seasoned activist is given more responsibility on the finances of the protest, a recently redundant banker is joining the campaign out of curiosity. As their experiences unfold, the play draws on the similarity of banks and an organisation such as this campaign and how easy it is to be branded as part of the system even if they share the same ideology. The story is nicely told if lacking a climax and conclusion.
Amanda by Kieran Hurley has three narrators describing the thought processes and actions of an MP spending her Sunday evening in a bath. The format has a lot of potential as the narrators spell out her concerns and reservations about her job. But the narrative lacks direction and focus and it is difficult to follow. True or Falseby Davey Anderson starts off with an undercover agent infiltrating a protest and actively starting a fight. This work explores the role of police tactics and questions the validity of testimony extracted using questionable techniques. In the middle of the play, it veers off into an odd audience participation interlude to demonstrate the use of deliberately misdirecting questions and coercion. The point is well made but perhaps lacks a little finesse. Even less subtle is The Wing by Clara Brennan. A father who has just attended an EDL march is speaking with his daughter struggling with her university fees. To emphasis his right wing views, his right arm has surreally been turned into a wing of a bird with feathers sprouting out. He delivers a rather standard rant on right wing policies while dismissing his daughter as a liberal softy. And a daughter and father relationship does not help with the balance of the power in persuasion and the discussion. This is the weakest work of the evening.
Project NIGHT by Tanika Gupta is a short piece with a politician rehearsing a speech on illegal immigration whilst constantly being interrupted by his foreign housekeeper and multicultural staff. It is a rather obvious contradiction to point out and the ending is a little contrived and abrupt. The final piece is Church Forced To Put Up Gates After Font Is Used As A Wash Basin By Migrants by Mark Thomas explores a newspaper proprietor’s stance on being anti EU and immigration but yet choosing to have his company registered offshore for tax reasons. The long title refers to a possible headline from such a paper and is a rather thinly veiled attempt to highlight the hypocritical tax arrangement of a UK tabloid. The writing in this is perhaps the strongest with snappy lines and great humour. While the plot may be suspect, it has a real message behind it.
The cast of seven does a good job in bringing the script to life with their reading, in particular Jack Chedburn and Jason Devoy. It is certainly an interesting evening of theatre exploring these themes but the main complaint is the thematic overlaps and repetition of the messages in some of the plays. It will be a stronger, punchier evening if the number of plays is reduced.