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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Schuman Plan
Hampstead Theatre      February 2006

Tim Luscombe's new play is serious, earnest, and unrelentingly boring. It is part history lesson and part political attack, and doesn't manage to make either part - or, for that matter, the plot or characters - in the slightest bit interesting.

The Schuman Plan was a 1950 proposal to unite the French and German coal and steel industries in what some of its most ardent supporters thought of even then as a first step toward a Common Market, a European Union and eventually a United States of Europe.

(As the play repeatedly reminds us, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman just gave his name to the idea actually written by the obscure bureaucrat Jean Monnet - that's the kind of pedantry Luscombe constantly gets bogged down in.)

The play imagines a British civil servant who begins as an ardent Schumanist but becomes disillusioned over the following decades as reality doesn't live up to his dreams.

Shock! Horror! Prime Minister Edward Heath keeps some of the less attractive details quiet when pushing Britain into the Common Market! Shock! Horror! Some farmers cheat to get undeserved subsidies! Shock! Horror! EU fishing regulations particularly hurt small fishermen!

Aside from the fact that little of this can be news to many, it is delivered in thoroughly undramatic ways. Every single scene features someone saying to someone else 'Explain what you mean,' cuing a ten or fifteen minute lecture loaded with facts and statistics, and the characters, mere mouthpieces for Luscombe's research or polemics, never come alive.

Want to know whether the subsidy for wheat is greater or lesser than for olives, or who said what in Parliament in 1972, or exactly how much the fine is for catching 300 pounds over your limit of cod? Then this is the play for you, but I can't think of any other reason to recommend it.

The actors, most of whom play four or five roles (historical and fictional) are uniformly poor, and I'm not going to name and shame.

They take turns fluffing their lines, and their discipline and concentration are so poor that whoever is using the silliest accent in any given scene soon finds the others unconsciously slipping into it as well. Anthony Clark directs with the pacing of an unenthusiastic snail.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of The Schuman Plan - Hampstead  Theatre 2006


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