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