by Juliet Gilkes Romero.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 7 February 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 January.
Upper Cut has the distinct air of being a rough-cut. It might have been a work-in-progress, but if so there’s a lot of progress still to be made to turn it into a workable drama.
Politicians are held in such low esteem as a breed it must be difficult to be unfair to them, but this play manages to be. Dig into why and it’s because it’s unfair to its audience. There’s nothing wrong with starting at the end and tracing backwards to earlier days, when, for example, young Tony Blair was seen as a good socialist.
But that example’s symptomatic of the problem. That’s not history; it’s hindsight. It depends on people already having a different view. There’s no perception even into the core matter of ‘Black sections’ – the kind of positive discrimination which led Labour to all-women shortlists for some constituencies.
And playwright Juliet Gilkes Romero hardly makes her point by having Black candidate Michael Powers rise to Deputy Leader. If the other Black politician, Karen Jackson, never fulfils the career expected for her, it’s because she breaks the party loyalty for principle, demanding an investigation into the deaths of a Black family.
Yet they too seem a dramatist’s contrivance, mentioned but never made to matter. Oh, for a David Edgar, a playwright who can handle political forces with depth of understanding and dramatic subtlety. There’s none of that here.
Nor in a production which does all it can to suggest the director gave up early on and left the cast (also including a, White, party-fixer) to it. Which could also account for the frenetic playing-style, its lack of subtlety and limited variation in tone. Just as Romero’s dialogue has politicians making obvious, person-in-the-street points, rather than showing any sense of detailed knowledge – any sense they had experienced the matters behind their bland comments – the actors deliver plodding lines of exposition, a kind of series of ponderous footnotes, with little to disguise the heavy-handed dramaturgy.
Turgid, alas, unconvincing in the mix of real issue and invented incidentals, neither play nor production holds the attention or stimulates the mind.
Michael Powers: Akemnji Ndifornyen.
Karen Jackson: Emma Dennis-Edwards
Barry Reed: Andrew Scarborough.
Director: Lotte Wakeham.