by Beau Willimon.
Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 5 October 2013.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 September.
Comes clean about the dirty business of American politics.
Already filmed, as The Ides of March, Beau Willimon’s play about the connivings behind an American Presidential election reaches London in Guy Unsworth’s brisk and largely well-acted production. The play starts with a quartet of apparently sympathetic people discussing tactics and then, as is often the way, spends the rest of its scenes watching them implode or disintegrate. And this is only the Democrats choosing their candidate; the real dog-fight is still to come.
Initial ruptures emerge within minutes from behind the smart, polite talk. Journalist Ida Horowicz – to whom Rachel Tucker brings a smart assurance and a bright, knife-sharp smile – tells Stephen Bellamy, running the campaign of Paul Zara, that their alliance is self-interest, based on mutual need, not liking. Bellamy in power is dismissive of those beneath him, till those beneath acquire their own power. Josh O’Connor’s Ben, learning on the job, adapts effortlessly from keen obedience to firm exclusion when the main chance comes to him.
Max Irons’ Stephen is a poker-faced match for Ida and for the rival candidate’s agent, Andrew Whipp’s honest-seeming and assured Tom Duffy. But Duffy’s campaign has learned from the Republicans and plays real dirty, outsmarting Stephen. When that happens, Shaun Wiliamson’s Zara shows himself a politician who can declare his belief in loyalty as he sticks in the knife.
In this febrile world rival PRs seen talking together can become the story itself. Max Irons charts Stephen’s fall from power, from conscious star of the political PR sphere, arrogance just below the polite surface, to despair at being manoeuvred out. Ruthlessness in the application of cold principle finds a modern sheen as it’s sharpened by the rapidity of communication and the springing-up of suspicions in a fast-paced world of interns, sex and careerism.
Farragut North is a Washington subway station, part of an interchange between two lines. Staying straight on the rails or changing tracks is a metaphor for the world according to Washington. As is a single dollar bill from Zara’s first campaign, his emblem of loyalty, produced at a moment of betrayal in this gripping political thriller.
Stephen Bellamy: Max Irons.
Ida Horowicz: Rachel Tucker.
Paul Zara: Shaun Williamson.
Ben Fowles: Josh O’Connor.
Molly Pearson: Aysha Kala.
Tom Duffy: Andrew Whipp.
Waiter/Frank: Alain Terzoll.
Director: Guy Unsworth.
Designer/Costume: David Woodhead.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Pete Malkin.
Composer: Jude Obermüller.
Dialect coach: Nicholas Trumble.
Assistant director: Rick Woska.