Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
As the disaster of the General Election becomes clear, the Traverse Theatre’s response was this Election Day piece of self-styled ‘guerilla theatre’ that aimed to get inside what proves to be the Prime Minister’s very complex psyche. The play’s starting point is the unforgettable image of Gordon Brown covering his face as he is forced to listen to the recording of a private conversation of him letting off steam about a Rochdale pensioner’s comments on immigration. What unravels through a series of multiple-authored set-pieces is something that’s part biography and part satirical fantasy married to the tragedy of a simple man.
With three lecterns lined up in a row, the set’s deliberate resemblance to the real-life leadership debates ends there. David Greig and fellow writers Rona Munro, Alan Wilkins, Peter Arnott, Andy Duffy, David Ireland, Vicki Liddelle and Quigley lead Brown through a necessarily hastily-crafted series of on-the-spot routines.
Steven McNicoll takes centre-stage as a bumblingly innocent Brown, a book-worm braniac who falls for a Romanian princess and party girl, hilariously played by Gabriel Quigley. Calum Cuthbertson’s Tony Blair is an eager to please puppy-dog, the Irish peace process turns into a riff as filthy as Derek and Clive, while there are rare sighting of the PM doing the Time Warp before discovering his ‘inner Wolverine.’
Some things, however, are beyond a joke. It’s not just the un-necessary wars and failed ambitions. Brown’s tragedy here is that he’s too human, too fallible and far more ordinary than the frozen-faced conveyor-belt of automatons about to take office. By the end, this has become an oddly fond farewell to a man out of his depth.
The Herald, May 7th 2010