by Aurin Squire.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 16 December 2014.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 December.
Hopes and fears of the election trail in a fine play memorably played.
See this play. This production. Both are miraculous. The story of campaigners working for Barack Obama to become US President in 2008, it’s both political and intensely human. It embodies the spirit of Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ campaign while showing the hard daily slog and morale-sapping canvassing involved. And while there’s a scene showing a White policeman harassing Black New York university graduate Warren as he takes a nap during the campaign in downmarket, largely Black East Michigan – a sink state if ever – its main racial politics take place among the Black characters.
Edward Dede has all the naive young graduate’s empty optimism, up against the scepticism of seasoned Black campaigner Barbara, then partnered with aggro-mannered (Black) campaigner Caits. Both give rise to comedy, in Tommo Fowler’s production, which no director could better in its liveliness, ability to create group excitement one moment, intense personalangst another and show the energy of campaigning. It maximises the surprise round sudden corners, as when the excitement of victory shifts into personal political ambitions – jobs for the boys and girls – and eventual desertion of the rust-bucket constituency: exactly what its inhabitants expected.
There’s some of the funniest material between highly-educated politicos and working-class locals since the canvassing sequence in Dennis Potter’s 1965 TV play Vote, Vote, Vote, For Nigel Barton. But there’s also a quintessential American optimism glued-on. The development of 27-year old illiterate mother Ceci from shrinking fear to assertion is as typical an American voyage as could be. Yet it avoids sentimentality because her assertion is against Warren’s college-boy patronising; her full development only reported when she’s been left to sort herself out. And because Pearl Mackie’s performance is so completely conceived it’s hard to recognise her also as the sharp-edged Caits.
But the play’s heart beats strongest when Warren meets Ceci’s anonymous Neighbor, whose memories show why politics matters and cure him of self-pity. Amanda Wright brings a calm, authoritative dignity to the scene, contrasting her sophisticatedly practical Barbara.
The whole piece, so vividly played, might hopefully retain the American Dream. But it does so with a wide-awake sense of reality.
Instructor/Sam/Resident #2/Cop #1/Cop #2/Brad/Night Cop/Dad: Peter Caulfield.
Instructor/Cece/Caits: Pearl Mackie.
Instructor/Resident #3/Laura/Store Clerk/Lainey: Katherine Newman.
Instructor/Barbara/Resident #1/Neighbor/Mom: Amanda Wright.
Warren: Edward Dede.
Director: Tommo Fowler.
Designer: Anna Lewis.
Lighting: Rob Mills.
Sound/Composer: Finn Keane.
Movement: Ita O’Brien.
Dialect coach: Nina Zendejas.
Assistant director: Emerald Crankson.