FEED THE BEAST to 2nd May 2015

Birmingham
FEED THE BEAST: Steve Thompson
Birmingham Rep Studio
: 16 04 – 02 05
Runs: 2h 20m, one interval

Review: Alexander Ray Edser 21 04 15

A modern play with political debate to delight

I keep being told the age of the text-based play is dead. I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be from people who can’t do text based plays because I don’t really see any evidence of it myself. So it is marvellous to see Steve Thompson’s debating play FEED THE BEAST at the Rep. (Though I confess I think it’s a shame he’s credited as the ‘writer’ and not the much better ‘playwright’.)

FEED THE BEAST is about an idealistic Labour PM who decides to stick to his principles and do things to make the country better. He cares not for being liked (by his Party nor the voters) and he decides to ignore the press other than for discussing policy. What an interesting tension – a character who wants to do good but you don’t like. Thompson has him taking on the press, but eventually having to compromise his principles.

Thompson gives us a tough job then. It’s hard to empathise with Michael (the PM) though intellectually we definitely side with him. Particularly as the massive political themes rumble around in the play. The debates are intriguing and the lack of resolutions apposite and frustrating. Avoiding cheap satire, Thompson has politics losing out and humanity winning. Shame we can’t have both, but Thompson, like the protagonist, I suspect, wishes to ‘be free to be himself.’

For the political cognoscenti there’s enough of Blair, Brown and A Campbell to keep us amused. Though director, Peter Rowe, who has engendered a vibrant spirit of debate, might encourage the actors to relax a little, building just a tentative bridge towards us.

A host of excellent performances (often doubles). Gerald Kyd knits it all together in his unflawed performance of a flawed character. And how I’d hate to work for him! (Or maybe not.)

Kacey Ainsworth: Sally / Leader of the House of Commons
Gerald Kyd: Michael
Amy Marston: Heather / Curator of Chequers
Shaun Mason: Scott / Robert
Paul Moriarty: Chairman Denis / General Hulme
Aimee Powell: Ellie
Badria Timimi: Andrea / Priscilla
Tristram Wymark: Clive / Anthony

Steve Thompson: Writer
Peter Rowe: Director
Libby Watson: Designer
Simon Bond: Lighting Designer
Nathan Jones: Video Designer
Tom Mills: Composer and Sound Designer
Polly Jerrold: Casting Director
Nicholas Pitt: Assistant Director

2015-04-22 10:55:33

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