ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
From the beginning the team know that they will not have a perfect election but they hope for one which is "free and fair enough" but it is apparent that the existing President is going to win. When the first round of voting is close enough to necessitate a second round between the two main candidates, Russell, with her African translator David Okeke (Chuk Iwuji), intervenes to register more voters from the underrepresented rural areas. The effect of this democratization is that these extra votes will not be for the incumbent president.
It is true that the President's men are beating up those who are seen to be helping the opposition or worse cutting off parts of their anatomy but somehow what Russell is doing also seems to be wrong, her liberal actions are interfering and affecting the result, albeit with the best of intentions. What is incredible is how unaware she is of the suspect morality of her actions. Matt Charman has given us a broad palette of characters from those running rural polling stations to the openly antagonistic members of the "in the President's pocket" Electoral Committee to a bar keeper and waitress as well as the washed out British diplomat, Saunders (James Fleet) and the Norwegian newly appointed, out of his depth, chief of the observation team (Peter Forbes). There is the BBC television news reporter Declan (Lloyd Hutchinson) looking for a story but ending up speaking in cliché soundbites.
Rolling blinds descend to screen the set and to vary the scene with projected landscapes or electric fans to contribute to the brown dusty colours and torpor of Africa. Matt Charman has obviously researched his play well. One scene sees the observation team horse trading as they decide what to put in and what to leave out of their report. What price transparency? Then there is the tension as each day after the second result there is the refusal of the President to concede victory to the Opposition and a meeting between Russell and the Head of the Military General Okule (one of many rich performances from Cyril Nri).
It is an interesting political play which merits and stimulates debate with some very fine performances. Richard Eyre keeps the second half moving at a faster pace than the first but don't leave at the interval because you will miss a satisfying denouement much of which has been set up in the first half.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.