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 The Theatreguide.London Review

2nd May 1997
Bush Theatre Autumn 2009

The title of Jack Thorne's new play is the date of the election in which a Labour victory ended eighteen years of Thatcher-Major Tory dominance. In three otherwise unrelated scenes, each set in a bedroom, Thorne shows disparate reactions of Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour supporters on the evening, night and morning after the election.

A Tory backbencher about to be voted out faces both the scary prospect of retirement and the awareness of how little he accomplished or contributed while in Parliament. A Lib-Dem footsoldier takes a drunk and randy girl home from a party and, in what I take to be satiric allegory, is too nice and ineffectual to capitalise on the opportunity. The next morning, a pair of sixth-formers combine the anything-is-possible thrill of the election with their excitement at going off to university.

The three episodes have no connection to each other and no real tie to the date and the election. The MP could be any man facing retirement and a re-evaluation of his life, and the other two scenes could happen any time.

Thorne does try to flesh the characters out beyond being representatives of their parties. The MP is in poor health, mention is made of a daughter with unspecified emotional problems, and his wife (in the longest speech of the whole play) gets to vent the frustrations and repressed anger of being a political wife while also affirming her pride and support for him.

The drunken girl of the second scene alludes to a private grief underlying her self-destructive sluttishness, and the lads in the third scene handle with admirable maturity and delicacy the unspoken but acknowledged awareness that one feels more than friendship for the other.

But the fact remains that there isn't a play here, but three basically independent playlets, and that none is more than the basic sketch of characters and situations.

One could almost guess that the playwright went scrounging through aborted play ideas, found a few pages each on a retiring man, sluttish girl and schoolboys, and realised (or hoped) that setting them all on the same night might justify them individually and make them resonate off each other.

It doesn't. They remain the half-developed ideas for three different plays, with little sense that they could be developed beyond this length and not enough to satisfy as they are.

Director George Perrin and a hard-working cast try to make more out of the sketchy raw material than they have been given, and there are some nice moments of humour or touching emotion that are clearly their contributions. But they have simply been given too little to work with, and the audience too little to respond to.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - 2nd May 1997 - Bush 2009
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