JAMES BONNEY MP
by Ian Buckley.
The White Bear theatre, 132 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DJ to 8 July 2017.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm May Sat 8 Jul 2.30pm & Sun 4pm.
Runs 1hr 50 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 012 4963.
Review: William Russell 22 June.
A play for yesterday rather than today
The problem about Ian Buckley’s political drama is caused by what Harold MacMillan memorably said about politics – “Events, dear boy, events.” Buckley decided to write a play about the Labour Party in the early days of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership when the old guard were screaming for his blood and the Militants were plotting to oust them from their seats. Corbyn was proving a disaster in the Commons and his far left beliefs and the existence of Momentum were anathema to the moderates or old guard or whatever.
But since then we have had an election, Jeremy Corbyn has defied his critics by fighting a first rate campaign and, while not winning, won some seats denying Theresa May the majority it looked like at the start she was set to win. She contributed to some of what happened, but so did he and the moderates have had to face up to reality. Jeremy is here to stay which destroys the point of the play.
Mr Buckley does not help things by making James Bonney, his moderate, very well played by Andrew Loudon, into the most splendid two face liar, shit and self seeking politician imaginable since that man Bastard. The contest with his rival, a youthful Corbynite, to control the local party is simply not one he is going to lose as he knows more dirty tricks than the lad.
The challenger, played by Malcolm Rose, is gormless and sleeping with Bonney’s daughter Kate who is in thrall to her Dad. Meanwhile Bonney is sleeping with his secretary, a leggy Louise Tyler who looks more like a girl who would choose a Tory backbencher than a Labour one, and neglecting his passive but with hidden depths wife, a nicely hysterical Karen McCaffrey. Add his agent, who lusts after Mrs Bonney and double crosses his member and you have quite a mix.
But the battle now is how the moderates take over Jeremy – they are queuing up to rejoin the front bench realising it is better to be inside fighting than outside. That would make quite a play.
Director Georgia Leanne Harris does not help things by keeping the cast moving bits of doorways and chairs to suggest different venues, a totally unnecessary ploy which proves extremely irritating. It could quite easily be performed without all the palaver and, given the limitations of the space, the audience knows that one much used exit simple leads in to a walled off corner of the room. Ms Harris needs to calm down.
The cast is fine, the play has its moments, but is really more miss than hit, a pity because there is a story to be told in there somewhere and Mr Buckley in Bonney has created a rather fruity monster abetted by Mr Loudon. There is a play about the battle for the soul of the Labour party to be written but this is not it.
James Bonney: Andrew Loudon.
Christine Bonney: Karen McCaffrey.
Kate Bonney: Elian West.
Jennifer Allen: Louise Tyler.
Malcolm Rose: Ciaran Lonsdale.
George Jenner: Malcolm Jeffries.
Director: Georgia Leanne Harris.
Set Design: Oscar Selfridge.