Monday, 4 May 2015

Theatre review: A New Play for the General Election

Often when a new play is announced before its contents are finalised - such as the work of Mike Leigh and Anthony Neilson who write their scripts during rehearsal - it remains untitled until just before it opens. They do tend to get a title eventually though, but A New Play for the General Election at the Finborough has remained simply a new play,* which makes me think they're not that concerned that anyone might ever want to revive it. In addition, it was originally announced as being written by Chris Dunkley, but somewhere along the way director Chris New also got bumped up to deviser and author of the piece. So all the signs point to this not being as smooth a creative process as might have been hoped, but great things can come from adversity so no need to dismiss it out of hand. I don't know if they had too much adversity or not enough, but great things have not materialised.

A man calling himself Tom (Charlie Hollway) has been abducted and tied up by Hero (Jumaane Brown,) who beats him and occasionally interrogates him about the whereabouts of a girl called Sonia, who seems to have recently disappeared.

Later, Hero is joined by a manic girl called Maggie (Emily Houghton) who believes that he is Jesus and she herself is the missing Sonia; as well as Maggie's boyfriend Richard (Tim Pritchett,) who seems comparatively normal apart from how well he's taking all of this weirdness.

The sole indication that this all has anything to do with this year's general election is the fact that one of the characters turns out to be George Osborne. I'm sure that during the improvisation process New and his cast found numerous levels of symbolism for how the characters reflect Britain in the wake of the outgoing government, and the hopes and fears of what the next one might bring, but unfortunately it's wrapped up in so many layers of oddity and metaphor that its meaning is far from apparent, the devised nature of the show all too obvious.

A New Play ends with a piece of grisly wish-fulfillment that I can't deny is satisfying, but everything leading up to it is obscure, half-formed and just not that interesting. Chris New is already a strong actor and director, but on this evidence writing won't prove a third string to his bow.

A New Play for the General Election by Chris New is booking in repertory until the 12th of May at the Finborough Theatre.

Running time: 55 minutes straight through.

*unless it's A Chris New Play for the General Election

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