A View from Islington North, Arts Theatre, 24 May

I am unashamedly interested in anything Corbyn related and so far I have disappointed. Corbyn is such a bland man that is no surprise that works inspired by him to continue to disappoint.

A View from Islington North at the Arts Theatre is a collection of 5 short plays with vaguely political connections. Mark Ravenhill’s The Mother is about a mother’s denial when two soldiers turn up on her door step to tell her son’s dead. It is simple, it is effective but it is very Ravenhill. Shouty, swearing and doesn’t really allow its audience to respond emotionally to the story.

I cannot begin to explain Caryl Churchill’s disappointing effort which is the type of piece that puts generations of working class of theatre. Nonsensical, smug and short it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the pieces.

The Accidental Leader is Alaistair Beaton’s analysis of why Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t been usuprped and is one of the stronger plays. Interesting performances from Bruce Alexander and it is the one piece where Sarah Alexander (to be replaced by Kathryn O’Reilly from 6 June) doesn’t feel desperately miscast.

The most interesting and thoughtful piece is David Hare’s Ayn Rand Takes a Stand, which stars Ann Mitchell as Rand (please cast her in a full play playing her) and Steve John Shepherd and Jane Wymark as Gideon and Theresa. It is an interesting analysis on Conservatism, the free market and immigration and probably the most interesting thing Hare has done in years.

The final piece, How to Get Ahead in Politics by Sheila Feehilly never quite meets its potential as an analysis of sexual harassment and racism within politics. Bruce Alexander as the Chief Whip didn’t seem entirely at ease and Shepherd’s character felt underwritten. There is then a really awful Billy Bragg music piece that feels like desperate padding or someone trying to reinforce their lefty credentials (as a Lefty Bragg leaves me a bit cold)

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Max Stafford-Clark’s production just felt very slapdash and dull when it should have linked quite well. The theme of Islington North doesn’t work and the performances felt very unnatural and stilted. It felt like a great waste of Ann Mitchell to have her only do one play and Jane Wymark seemed to be the only one playing different characters with any ease.

There’s a desperate need for good political writing and this just isn’t it.

 

 

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