“Why would anyone go into politics unless it is to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves?”
Women, Power and Politics: Now is one half of a larger programme of activities by the Tricycle looking at the role of women in power and politics to try and find an answer to the persistent under-representation of women in the corridors of power in the UK. Taking its example from last year’s The Great Game, a number of playwrights have been commissioned to create short plays from a range of perspectives and stories and performed by a large ensemble of 12. This half looks at things from a modern perspective whereas Then takes a set of historical viewpoints, you should note the two evenings can be enjoyed separately and do not have to be viewed in chronological order.
Directed by Indhu Rubasingham, Now features five short plays, Acting Leader by Joy Wilkinson, The Panel by Zinnie Harris, Playing the Game by Bola Agbaje, Pink by Sam Holcroft and You, Me and Wii by Sue Townsend, fuller reviews of each play can be read by clicking on the links in the titles. There’s a number of common themes that emerge from the evening, in particular the rise of the pursuit of individual gain over the collective good and the prevalence of voter apathy for a range of reasons.
We also get a set of edited verbatim accounts from interviews with leading politicians conducted by Gillian Slovo, tonight you get Edwina Currie, Ann Widdecombe, Jacqui Smith, Oona King and Nick Clegg’s thoughts on issues affecting women in Westminster, read by a selection of the actors, Claire Cox’s Currie is the most entertaining here. The most illuminating though were the comments about Jacqui Smith’s choice of outfit for her opening speech as Home Secretary, totally unexpected to me and highly informative on the choices and decisions that people have made to get where they have.
Rosa Maggiora set design and Matthew Eagland’s lighting is remarkably flexible, two movable walls evoking a vast range of locations with a minimum of fuss and all of the plays are impeccably acted by the hard-working ensemble. Stand-outs are Claire Cox who demonstrates a wide flexibility in the range of roles she covers and Heather Craney who brings a fierce intensity to both of her major roles. Lara Rossi and John Hollingworth also rate special mention here, but there’s quality throughout.
In balance, Now is a more of a downbeat experience than Then: there’s less humour on display here, more searching looks at the reality of the way our society operates and a bit more focus on younger people. It still makes for an entertaining, informative and thought-provoking evening at the theatre.