Review: Right Dishonourable Friend, VAULT Festival

Metamorph Theatre and Enough Helen Productions’ Right Dishonourable Friend makes a pointed political statement at the VAULT Festival

“5 minutes with the Northerners and they’ll be calling me the ‘People’s Princess'”

No matter which party is in (any) government, one thing seems to be certain and that is political sleaze is sure to follow. Whether Partygate, tax bills and loans, accusations of bullying or a whole lot more, something about the power of Westminster draws out the worst in so many. Right Dishonourable Friend follows one such individual – Perdita, the brand new MP for the fictional East Lancashire town of Ardenton.

The grand total of her qualifications for the role is the simple fact that she’s the daughter of a former Home Secretary and as she’s parachuted in from her London home, she gets a rude awakening to the realities of life on the Pennine Moors. With Dan, a sceptical communications manager, and Sharon, her Corrie-obsessed assistant to win over first, we then follow what could maybe, possibly, be the development of a political conscience as she adopts Dan’s passion project of addressing the woeful lack of LGBTQ+ support services in the region.

Written by Phoebe Batteson-Brown and Eoin McKenna, Right Dishonourable Friend straddles the comedy/drama with ease, for the most part. Batteson-Brown’s Perdita is something of an easy target for humour but is reliably funny in her awfulness and as McKenna’s Dan drags her into a place of at least a little awareness, the development of their relationship is rather engrossing. The arrival of queer teen Alex at the end of one of Perdita’s surgeries throws up a giant wrinkle though.

Kayla Feldman’s clear-sighted production is astute enough to respect the queer trauma it depicts, even as the heart sinks at its enduring relevance (Brianna Ghey’s murder a case in point – Rest in Pride). And Rachael Hilton delivers a masterclass in quick changes as she flips repeatedly between three supporting characters (I’d watch a spin-off about Big Chell in a heartbeat). The only question I had is how Dan squared his small-P political principles with serving in the constituency office of an MP in the sitting government and surely the grasping realities of political ambition should come as little surprise to an experienced comms officer? Regardless, great to see companies unafraid to tackle big political questions in the VAULT format.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
Right Dishonourable Friend is booking at the VAULT Festival until 18th February

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