WHAT FALLS APART
by Torben Betts.
Live Theatre Broad Chare Quayside NE1 3DQ To 16 May 205.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm, 10 May 4pm, Mat 7, 16 May 2pm.
Audio-described 14 May (+ Touch Tour 6.15pm).
BSL Signed 12 May.
Captioned 13 May.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0191 232 1232.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 May.
Political fury not finding credibility on stage.
Torben Betts’ new play could be called a political thriller if it thrilled more and had greater political depth or analysis – though others have trumpeted the ‘political thriller’ tag while fizzling-out sooner, and with a more glib approach to political matters. Betts at least brings sense and fury to his long day’s journey into MP Alan Savage’s political night.
But it’s largely been seen before, and is mostly predictable. The ‘sting’ element resembles Joe Penhall’s Dumb Show, where a sexy, professed admirer turns out to be on the investigative rampage. True, politicians seem able to soak-up admiration like gin at odd hours in hotels, but the truth comes as no surprise to an audience, and they’re the people who’ve been kept waiting for the revelations.
This play adds rabid hatred to normal right-wing agendas for revenge, while it’s for his politics Savage is being savaged, not a peccadillo or misdemeanour. He dared to become a thorn in the Labour Party’s left side for a time before being rehabilitated to orthodoxy and the chance of power.
And he doesn’t even have the staff on his side. The most interesting – perhaps the only interesting – character is all-night hotel barman Gary – who bears another symbolic surname, but goes around with a self-designed Sanskrit pseudonym. Kevin Wathen slowly mixes menace into the polite manner of an employee who clearly has more in his mind than meets the eye.
But, the threat and potential for violence having eventually built-up, they fizzle away. Partly, because Savage is such a stock type – drink problem, fear of embarrassing photos rather than of doing wrong, failed marriage (though there’s a neat, politics-edged angle to Mrs Savage’s infidelity) – he’s defeated before anyone puts a boot in.
It still seems dramatic contrivance that not one, but two, potential destroyers should pull back. And the point that it’s not the establishment figures but the common Englander who ends-up with self-inflicted harm is well made, though the cliff-edge (or window-ledge) ending becomes yet another moment of dramatic indecision.
Decently-enough acted and directed, the story’s credibility dramatic design repeatedly shows through its surface.
Tom Savage: Nigel Hastings.
Venetia Fitzpatrick: Zannah Hodson.
Gary England: Kevin Wathen.
Director: Max Roberts.
Designer: Isla Shaw.
Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth.
Sound: Dave Flynn.
Fight director: Keith Wallis.