by April de Angelis, Georgia Fitch, Anders Lustgarten, Mark Norfolk, Paula B Stanic.
Cockpit Theatre Gateforth Street NW8 8EH to 22 June 2013.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7258 2925.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 June.
Dramatic patchwork of lost years is more than the sum of its variable parts.
Things have sobered up since 1974, when King’s Head bar-worker Dave Whybrow saw Robert Patrick’s play Kennedy’s Children at the Islington pub theatre. Patrick’s play examined, a decade after the shock assassination of President Kennedy, a sense of isolation and lost direction through characters in a New York bar.
Its innovation, providing its own shock for 1970s theatregoers, lay in its structure, interlinked monologues revealing people marooned amid their lives in the bar’s non-society.
This becomes a London coffee-bar in Blair’s Children at Marylebone’s Cockpit Theatre, where Whybrow is now Director. Each of the five characters, equally isolated as they tell their stories without acknowledging the others, is written by a different playwright.
Their relationship to Tony Blair’s time as Prime Minister varies. Most direct are the contrasting Maggie, creation of Anders Lustgarten, and Jennifer, from April de Angelis. Sitting with subdued dignity, Maggie recounts the fate of her son who went to fight Blair’s war.
Rushing in, ever-hurried, Jennifer is Blair babe rather than child, the political aspirant besotted with Blairite ministerial boss Alan Johnson. Lustgarten expresses the heavy impact of the time on the ‘ordinary’ Maggie (Scottish, with ironic reference to Blair’s education at Edinburgh’s exclusive Fettes College), while de Angelis give a sharp satirical edge to the glibness of the metropolitan cappuccino class.
For Jennifer, council estate child turned sophisticate is the clearest tribute linking Thatcher, Blair and the coalition kids; her own success a whip with which to lash others. And the things that have only got better for her anthem have turned out only to turn rancid for Mark Norfolk’s Black, tagged Dee and Paula B Stanic’s Serbian immigrant Vlatco, as Blair got tough on crime and stoked-up the Balkan war, before his biggest adventure.
All are well-performed, though first to speak, social worker Marie, whose son leaves home and converts to Islam, is the most devastating in Michelle Butterly’s voice of quiet desperation.
In designer Paul Wills’ bland, doubtless costly, coffee-bar, the comfy sofas are on the margins, for the marginalised to sink into between bouts of recall, and the barman, a mere worker, speechless.
Marie: Michelle Butterly.
Maggie: Caroline Guthrie.
Dee: Royce Pierreson.
Vlatco: Christopher Patrick Nolan.
Jennifer: Rosie Armstrong.
Director: Charlotte Westenra.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Chris Lincé.
Sound: Simon Slater.
Dramaturg: Dave Whybrow.