There is a problem with democracy in this country. The problem is the great British public. First, you can’t rely on them to vote the right way – for instance Brexit. Second, even when the vote is over, nobody is happy. So, in the case of Brexit, the Remainers are feeling left out and ignored and the Leavers are split between those that think Brexit will be too hard and those that think it will be too soft – see, nobody is happy. There has to be a better way. Whilst I agree, I’m not entirely sure that the answer lies in Sam Paris’ one-act play Lottery at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington.
In the future, the state is pretty all powerful. For example, couples get matched by a computer and have to go to a state-run facility – using the purple bus – and do their bit to bring on the next generation, if you get my drift. On the bus, going to the centre, two people (Ava Pickett and Elliott Bornemann) are standing up, sharing a pole. Their eyes meet and their hands ‘accidentally’ touch and it would be obvious to anyone looking that there is a spark of chemistry between them. Later it transpires that they have been matched to ‘make a baby’ together. Unfortunately, there are issues and the two of them decide to talk for a period of time. Part of their conversation concerns the results of the lottery. Now forget Camelot and their six balls, the lottery discussed here is the random generator that selects one lucky member of the public to be the next Prime Minister. In a bit of a turn-up for the books, the phrase ‘it could be you’ proves to be very apt, and indeed it is our young lady who wins the lottery and is whisked away to be Prime Minister, ably assisted by her Machiavellian advisor (Rhys Tees). With all the power of the PM at her fingertips, what will our heroine do for the country and, maybe more importantly, will she be able to maintain some sort of relationship with the man she met on the purple bus?
I first saw Lottery last September as part of the NDT Graduate Emerging Theatre Company programme and pretty much enjoyed it then. In the time between then and now, it has had a bit of a re-write and the script has been tightened up so it feels like a much more finished piece than before. There is a lot to like in the story. The basic idea is an intriguing one. After all, the pubs are full of people that reckon they could do the job of PM far better than the present incumbent and, as already discussed, democracy in its current form really isn’t that great. So why not hand it all over to a random name generator and sees what happens? The more I watched the play, the more I was thinking back to Sir Humphrey in the Yes Minister series. He would have been absolutely delighted with the whole ethos of the play. Concentrate all power in No 10 then ensure the occupant gets excellent advice from only one source.
Simon Paris not only writes but also directs the play and it’s obvious that he and the cast get along really well. There is a definite sense of oneness within the show that you only get when everyone involved is fully committed to the production and supporting each other. There are moments of surrealism and farce combined with some hard hitting political statements and good advice to live by – for example, NMAA (Never Miss an Asterisk) when reading a document – and some points where reality bleeds into theatre and theatre bleeds into reality.
On the whole, then Lottery was a nice piece of theatre with its tale of politics and reluctant politicians. The acting was good – especially Elliott Bornemann, whose role seems to have been beefed up nicely since the last time I saw it. I also liked the way Ava Pickett seemed to grow, both physically – nice move the shoes – and in stature as she became adjusted to being PM. And, as for Rhys Tees, well if it wasn’t so politically incorrect, I would say he was as mad a box of frogs and still looks very fetching in hot pink. I think Lottery is best summed up in a bastardised version of an old advertising slogan – “Monty Python doesn’t do politics, but if they did then Lottery is the kind of show they would produce.” It’s good fun and, hopefully, not a glimpse into the future.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following a sold out showcase as part of the New Diorama Theatre Companies Programme; Fictive Theatre bring to the Pleasance a brand new absurd, dystopian satire. Lottery is a comedy full of awkward moments, illicit deals and panic ridden decisions.
Politics has changed, the voting system as we know it has been replaced by a new, fairer system. The PM is chosen at random every 5 years, whether qualified for the job or not.
The public can’t be trusted with a vote anymore.Democracy is clearly a flawed system. Running the country is now a random member of the public who, after being chosen, tries to toe the line between being the “down-to-earth-everyman-who-looks-out-for-the-people” to “the-newest-addition-to-a-club-who-despite-swearing-they’ve-been-randomly-selected-have-a-striking-resemblance-to-the-old-elected-cabinet.”
Fictive Theatre is presenting their third show at The Pleasance following a revival of Fiona Evans’ Scarborough at The Cockpit Theatre and Mark Ravenhill’s Handbag. Fictive are working in association with Bernie Grant Arts Centre and is known to create intimate and brave theatre.
23rd May 2017 – 4th Jun 2017
StageSpace – Pleasance London