The second play in the Now half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre
The Panel is the only play in the season which does not feature a woman on stage. It stars all five male members of the ensemble in an interview panel situation, they’ve just spent three days interviewing a woman-only shortlist for a job and need to appoint, but with various deadlines fast approaching and a range of individual agendas at play, it is not a clear-cut decision.
I wasn’t a fan of the gender politics on display here. It felt a little reductive, suggesting no progress in the corporate world, ultimately tarring all men with the same brush and certainly I didn’t feel as if it had anything new to say. It did raise the interesting point though that only one of the women who was interviewed would have made the sift if it hadn’t have been a women-only shortlist, raising the question about the effectiveness of positive discrimination, something Ann Widdecombe’s interjections in the verbatim section focuses on: it has to be on merit, she says.
Simon Chandler’s ponderous David and Tom Mannion’s thoroughly old-school Maurice were the funniest characters, but all the men did well in trying to give life to these rather stereotypical sexist businessmen. Aware of political correctness and the need to appear onboard with it, Oliver Chris’ moderator Chris in particular was hyper-aware of this “We can’t give her feedback that says she didn’t get it because she was too good!”.
But in reality the group mentality won over and one by one the men started falling back to old patterns of chauvinistic behaviour as the questions they asked take on a more questionable tone. Is she a troublemaker? Was she too pretty? Was she too good? What do we know about her circumstances? The final note was quite depressing, but I suppose it was also depressingly plausible too.