Review: Coalition at Theatre 503 (The Blue Group)

Coalition (Blue Group)

Written for www.whatsonstage.com

As the competitively named Rivals opens in the West End, Theatre503 is pushing an altogether friendlier agenda with its Coalition season. Encompassing five short works in each group, the Yellow and Blue programmes will be performed in rep with yesterday the Blue group taking to the podium (tonight is Yellow and so on and so forth).

In a spirited, if slightly patchy, evening and with stringent colour loyalty (am I reading too much into this?) the focus is squarely on the lily livered Lib Dems, betrayers of left wing artists and students everywhere.

Westminster Side Story starts us off with a joyously smart, kitsch extravaganza. True satire that really makes us think, the marriage of poet Richard Marsh and Rogue Nouveau (cover name for singer/songwriter Natalia Sheppard) is a collaboration that this voter would like to see a lot more of. Full of dexterous verbal wit, it is an irreverent look at Clegg’s agonised pre-coalition quagmire with some cracking songs thrown in and a cavalcade of hilarious dance numbers. But even as it lampoons these buffoonish anti-heroes, the sucker punch ending takes us all painfully to account; as in life there are no easy options here.

A witty film of David Cameron and Nick Clegg peddling their BS around the streets of Brixton, like a suited and booted tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, leads us in to a much weaker Altogether Now that just feels plain awkward. To round off act one, an inside look into the life of the notoriously private wife of the Lib Dem leader titled Miriam. Gonzalez. Durantez. which boasts a nice central performance but is never quite as interesting as it promises to be.

A subtle second act sees Gordon Brown’s speech writer Kirsty McNeill and playwright Daniel Kanaber take the idea of getting Nick Clegg into bed literally with the sexually fuelled Dexterity, a smooth if slight piece. To round off the proceedings The Prophets And The Puppets sees the most stylistically interesting collaboration between writer Nimer Rashed and legendary puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew. Although it’s a little lacking in power, it speaks about coalition in a beautifully lyrical fashion and is probably the only surprise response to this subject matter.

With two downright successes, three competent efforts and only one disaster Theatre503’s Coalition is so far one which should make this Government jealous. But with the majority of collaborations between writers of some sort or another, it is a little safe perhaps (so safe an ex-Prime Minister was in attendance on press night). Let’s see if the Yellow group can be a little bit more adventurous.

In rep until 05 December 2010

Decade – Theatre503

Decade, Theatre503,  Until 23rd January 2010                                       

Event picture

When we think back over the noughties what is it that we will remember? Ten writers at Theatre 503 are here to help with a short 10 minute piece for each year which act as a series of coat hangers for us to drape our memories on.

Of course there are moments that we will never forget; the twin towers (here shown with breathtaking artistry as a piece of graffiti on the back wall) and the consequent war in Iraq for example. These things changed the world permanently and have made an indelible imprint on a nation’s psyche. But there are also some more gentle nudges that tease out further defining moments of this first decade of the 21st century; a subverted look at The Special Relationship, the still horror of a face being rebuilt whilst dogs growl off stage, a young woman being interrogated for loving her captor, the tragedy of a Tsunami and perhaps a more worldwide pandemic – Facebook.  It is these subtler pieces which really bring the whole ramshackle experience of this past decade together, connecting previously isolated incidences into a coherent line of history.

Unifying both the 503Five, five unproduced playwrights working with Theatre503 this year, and five leading writers the standard is for the most part impressively high.  You soon forget if this is a fledgling or established talent on show.  All ten shorts speak with a unique voice and whilst some are stronger than others, this variety creates a patchwork realisation of our lives over the last ten years, fully embodying the diversity of a nation.  Perhaps more than a single writer, 10 can give a true sense to the multi-cultural, multi-sexual, multi-racial, multi-religious state of our great nation in all its messy beautiful and sometimes dark complexity.  Following on from such works as This Much Is True, which love it or loath it certainly prompted serious political debate, Decade shows that Theatre503 is beginning 2010 in the same full throttle style that it ended 2009.

It’s only on until tomorrow which is a real shame.  If you get the chance this 10 minute, 10 piece quilt is a piece of art that is definitely worth the laborious trip down to the somewhat isolated but increasingly important Theatre503.

Writers: Amy Rosenthal, Beth Steel, Nimer Rashed, David Eldridge, Lou Ramsden, Fraser Grace, April de Angelis, Richard Marsh, Phil Porter, Rex Obano.