Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bad Political Theatre

Ah, The Guardian.

Given my political opinions, I ought to love The Guardian... and I do. I have been worried that Scottish political theatre is naive, but today's Micro-play from The Guardian reveals that The Royal Court has same aesthetic sensibilities as the team behind #ArgosLive.

Ignoring the optimism behind the announcement that 'Britain Isn't Eating is the first in a series of plays made in collaboration between Guardian journalists and Royal Court theatre-makers' (it isn't a play if 'liveness' is any part of the definition), Britain Isn't Eating is an object lesson in how to make bad political theatre. While it is unfair to attack art on the ground that the money could have spent on the NHS, when a script comes on as self-righteous as this one, the question 'how much did this cost and would it have been better used, like, buying food for food banks?' becomes pertinent.

There's no need for a spoiler alert: if you can't guess what line a Guardian micro-play about a government minister and food banks is going to take, I've got a bridge I want to sell to you. The lady politician made a nasty comment about people not buying food (some bizarre idea that it will destroy the high street if there are food banks, which I hope has not been taken from Katie Hopkins' twitter). She receives a sharp lesson, on a TV cookery programme, by a winsome, handsome young media type. 

For a seven minute special, there's plenty of pissing about - a silent introduction, cuts to different angles (which you don't get in plays, but films and TV shows), use of double screen, a slow build up to a lazy punchline. When I see work this bad in the theatre, I try to mention that the actors were okay. And they were, although they didn't have characters to perform, but a series of thoughts based on what liberals think a conservative would say...

Of course, this being a Guardian production, there's a twist. One of the collaborators is Jack Monroe, their food columnist who spends some time exploring the politics of food (and became famous for her outspoken opinions on the poverty that she suffered), and some time writing up recipes for The Guardian. Since recent treats have included star anise and orange ice-cream and prawn bibimbap (the later including a note to check the provenance of the prawns), it's safe to say Jack's not on the breadline anymore. Her recipes do look tasty, though.

However, it's all part of the same pornography of food that Laura Wade's script aims to attack - there are some subtle camera angles that make the MP look like Nigella. The Guardian, being a middle-class worry-wart, does all it can to assure its readers that it cares about the important things, while ignoring its own complicity in the making of culture and spending time slapping at easy targets rather than helping ameliorate the problem. 

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