Garrick Theatre, London WC2
Opened 26 April, 2001

*** Much less than meets the eye

Alistair Beaton's play about a New Labour spin-doctor is often big fun, but like the party it wants to be all things to all people

Some of the time it tries to be a farce, with people walking into or out of the wrong door among the many in this room at a party conference hotel, and Henry Goodman's spinmeister engaging in a series of clownish nervous tics. At other moments it goes for earnest political debate, as characters grow impassioned about principled socialism versus the realities of electability. One thing Max Stafford-Clark's production never is, though, is satire.

It's worth pointing that out, because we've forgotten what good satire is. It puts specific, real figures not the sort-of Tony Blair, sort-of Geoffrey Robinson and sort-of Alistair Campbell of this play in real or at least plausible situations not the cartoonish plot here: genetically modified hops grown in secret trials are accidentally used to make beer which makes men grow breasts. Beaton has nicked the idea from his own Drop The Dead Donkey novel, which gives you an idea how caricatured the whole thing is. On the night I saw it, the audience included the editor of The Sun and columnist Richard Littlejohn; they seemed to like it as well they might: for it doesn't draw blood the way it should.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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