Theatre 503’s The Charming Man boasts some snappy dialogue, wise cracking humour and a very charming central performance, but in terms of political satire it feels about as serious as Boris Johnson.
Set five years into the future, a political void has arisen from a resounding loss of trust in the two big parties (it is unclear which of them is currently in power now, if anyone at all) and the smaller ones are jostling for power. Enter the party with an unshakeable moral core, the Green Party, to save the day in a world of headless chicken politics. But as Party High Command groom Darren, an unknown black, gay youth worker, for the role of Prime Minister, it seems rather predictably they are not as squeaky clean as the world takes them for.
Only the beginning of a scene depicting a live TV debate feels true enough to relish in Western politics’ inherent absurdity
Claiming to be an irreverent look at the machinations of government, Gabriel Bisset-Smith’s script is certainly full of pithy comedy but it feels under researched, with the lampooning consequently unfocused and the machinery of politics untouched. To take a scalpel to something one must really know the subject and neither Bisset-Smith nor director Paul Robinson appear to have the insiders’ grasp that makes for cutting satire. Only the beginning of a scene depicting a live TV debate feels true enough to relish in Western politics’ inherent absurdity.
Libby Watson’s strangely confusing design equally lacks rigour. But in the midst of the headless chickens there are some intelligent performances from Syrus Lowe as the charismatic Darren and Kate Sissons, whose impassioned activist Olivia, brings fire and integrity into this political world full of caricatures and clowns.
*** (3 stars)
Runs until 13th November 2010.