Monday, 27 July 2015

Lord Snorty!

Politically engaged theatre can be overly worthy - with exceptions such as Cora Bissett's Glasgow Girls, theatre can often lend itself to polemical hectoring or, as in the case of I, Tommy, a satirical romp that loses sight of the serious implications of politicians' antics.

See Me Well, however, balances the hysterical farce of a corrupted political class with a more nuanced analysis of left wing despair. The anti-hero, a thinly veiled Captain Ersatz of shamed peer Lord Sewel, begins the play on stage, alone, recalling his halcyon days: 'that beautiful summer day, when everything felt possible'. He talks moving of the optimism felt on Blair's election, before the curtains fall and his new home is revealed. He's in prison now, and explaining himself to a panel of prisoners.

The script never shies away from the threat of violence: the prisoners have convened to discuss whether the disgraced peer needs to be punished for his behaviour, and knives are brandished at regular intervals. But the trick of the direction - to switch the Lord's gender, and that of his two 'lady-friends' pushes the atmosphere towards the pantomime, allowing a cheeky relish to inform those scenes that have inspired the wrath of The Daily Mail.

Whether the strong undercurrent of outrage pushes the drama towards hard-hitting satire, or the absurdity of the situation - paying prostitutes with a luncheon voucher, the 'rent-boys' parading around in the full regalia of the Upper House - reduces it to tame mockery, See Me Well is a surprisingly well constructed response to current affairs, and resolves into a sympathy meditation on the costs of success.

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