by Jack Thorne.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 10 January 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu, Sat & 23 Dec 2.30pm.
no performance 24 Dec-1 Jan.
Audio-described 20 Dec 2.30pm.
Captioned 7 Jan.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000 (no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 December.
Little hope here.
Six years before playwright Jack Thorne was born councillors in the Derbyshire mining village Clay Cross defied Edward Heath’s Tory government by refusing to increase council-house rents and by giving council workers a pay rise. Three years later they had built-up large personal court costs, been made bankrupt and the council dissolved. And that was the good old days for local government.
Thorne’s Hope shows councillors in an unspecific, but clearly traditional Labour area with social needs today, faced with having to make yet more spending cuts. At the start the Deputy Leader, Mark, is making a speech. It’s easy to sense it’s a rehearsal for his excuses to the public – playwrights don’t give politicians straightforward speeches these days.
Sure enough, he’s being rehearsed by Labour Group leader Hilary – Stella Gonet, whose lifestyle emerges as honourably simple but who looks and sounds, in voice if not in what she says, a model Tory – realistically enough for these days.
There are glimpses of what the cuts could mean hereabouts as a nationally-set ‘localism’ agenda means government tightens the purse strings leaving councils to decide where the axes fall. Will it mean an end to care for Hilary’s mother? Or to Gina’s work with young Laura, rejected at work for her mental ‘disability’ and relying on Gina’s day-centre for companionship and a sense of being valued?
The action can be bogged-down with half-explored matters of personal relationships. A shame, for where it focuses on the political pressures it starts, at least, to analyse the destruction of local democracy.
By the end the councillors sit kyboshed round the stage, gazing bemusedly at their orders as, in a modern Clay Cross, they look at the savage budget a higher, unelected authority has set for them to implement.
Behind, on a park-bench which designer Tom Scutt places on the stage of the community-hall set he’s designed for the action overall, the youngest and oldest characters, Tommy Knight’s teenager and Tom Georgeson’s old socialist, talk. There’s a sort of hope, doubtfully expressed. But John Tiffany’s production extinguishes even the slight wriggle-room for improvement the play suggests.
Sarwan: Rudi Dharmalingam.
Julie: Sharon Duncan-Brewster.
Laura: Jo Eastwood.
Gina: Christine Entwisle.
George: Tom Georgeson.
Hilary: Stella Gonet.
Mark: Paul Higgins.
Jake: Tommy Knight.
Lata/Alison: Nisha Nayar.
Director: John Tiffany.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Composer/Musical Supervisor: Marin Lowe.
Assistant director: Sandra Maturana.