Part of the Now half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre
Bola Agbaje’s contribution is Playing the Game, following three university housemates as the election for a new Students’ Association fast approaches. Akousa is interested in running but unsure if she is popular enough so her trendy housemates set about raising her profile, giving her makeovers, sexing her up and utilising any means possible to get her name out there. Their motives aren’t necessarily pure though and Akousa is forced to examine how far she is willing to go and how much she is willing to compromise in order to gain power.
Following the mantra that any publicity is good publicity, this was a good look at the ways viral marketing, social media and instant news can be used and abused to get your message across, especially to younger people, but also in the way that these things can be manipulated to present anything any way you choose. Lara Rossi and Claire Cox were very good as the key manipulators Jenny and Charlene pushing, prodding and primping their flatmate as a tool to achieve their ambitions, fully aware of how sex sells and what makes their world go round in the pursuit of their individualistic aims at the expense of the collective good. Amy Loughton was excellent as the young woman slowly coming to the realisation that there are always limits to how far one can go in order to get what one wants but also that personal savviness is an essential characteristic in achieving success.
Playing the Game was great fun, spunky and modern and engaging in its power games but it also brilliantly skewered our disengaged youths’ approach to politics and in particular their ambivalent attitude to the new coalition. Agbaje’s writing is extremely sharp and has a right-to-the-moment modernity about it that is remarkably fresh. She suggests, and not without reason, that the pinnacle of achievement for many of the young of today is instant celebrity by any means possible, even if it is winning the X-Factor and it is certainly feels that reality tv engages people, not just the young either, in ways that any political contest could hope to dream of.