Hope – Royal Court

Blog #1

“Worthy but dull” was Amanda’s immediate view as we left the Royal Court theatre last week. Reluctantly I had to agree. The thing is, I have been complaining loudly that the arts – drama, literature, film, even TV – seem to have failed to provide a critique to the austerity regime. Back in the 80s the entire arts scene, across music, theatre, TV, literature, reacted to the fractures on society served up by Thatcher’s governments with some exceptional work. This time round? J K Rowling aside, you would hardly know we were living in such difficult times.

So I was keen to see Jack Thorne’s Hope despite its mixed reviews. The play centres on a Labour council as it struggles to impose Coalition imposed cuts on its local community. Whatever savings council leader Hilary comes up with, there is a reason to oppose. Is it best to cut Sue Start funding or support for the learning disabled? The library or street lighting? Does the successful Twitter campaign count for more than more silent disagreement. Mark (Paul Higgins) is the flawed deputy leader who angsts over the problem, vacillating in whether to support his leader and push through the cuts, or join his younger colleagues who want to refuse to set a budget. This is marginally complicated by his affair with Julie (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), his ex-wife Gina (Christine Entwisle) being one of the targets for the cuts, his non-relationship with son Jake (Tommy Knight) and his failure to kick the bottle. Old Labour is represented by one of my favourite actors, Tom Georgeson who plays Gina’s father, the leader of the council in a previous era.

There is some politics, there is some plot, there are some jokes. Sadly the drama never really takes off. Mark & Julie’s relationship never seems remotely plusable, Hilary’s feet of clay never really mattes to anyone and it is not clear who cares that they refuse to set a budget. Georgeson’s voice of old Labour got barely suppressed cheers from the Royal Court’s champagne socialists while Jake’s over-clever schoolboy banter was the most satisfying dialogue.

So yes this is what I have been asking for, a play about the cuts, set in un-sexy, unfashionable local government and making an articulate case against the government. But with little drama and unbelievable relationships and absolutely no tension I’m afraid it really was very worthy but rather dull.


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