Why would anyone want to be an MP? True the money and perks are good but for those that do it properly, the hours are long, your constituents probably hate you but you’re a little better than the other candidate, you are away from the family four or five days a week and working weekends are the norm. However, I believe there are at least five candidates for every MP’s seat so it still remains a pretty popular job. There have been many plays written about MPs over the years and another can be added now with the production of Ian Buckley’s James Bonney MP at the White Bear Theatre.
James Bonney (Andrew Loudon) is an MP for a pretty well-off London constituency. He is Labour, that is to say, he is ‘New Labour’ and he is basically enjoying a fine old life representing the voters in the Mother of Parliaments. His Secretary, Jennifer (Louise Allen) keeps him on his toes and, back in the constituency, his wife Christine (Karen McCaffrey) and loving daughter Kate (Elian West) are always ready to support him. However, there are rumblings in this perfect set up and James may have been guilty of taking the voters for granted. His constituency agent George (Malcolm Jeffries) brings him news that there is a planned vote of no confidence in the MP and it is being led by left-wing firebrand Malcolm Rose (Ciaran Lonsdale) who wants to introduce old fashioned Labour policies back to his party.
As a political comedy drama, James Bonney MP has a lot of potential. A blasé MP with a stay at home a wife, a glamorous young secretary and a handsome activist believing that Jeremy Corbyn will rescue the party. Unfortunately, for me, it felt as if the story was incomplete and too much was left for the audience to figure out. For example, Jennifer confused me. Was she really a young lady with a thing for older men or was she a manipulative woman using her sexuality to prey on men or was she just an innocent victim of circumstance? Thinking back, I’m still not sure. However, I really enjoyed the writing when it came to the relationship between James and his wife. The banter between them was really nicely done and felt very authentic as if this was an old married couple past the fires of youth and now staying together for whatever nebulous reason seemed right, maybe even love? Full credit to Andrew and Karen for their spot on acting at these points. In fact, all of the actors were good throughout, though I did get the feeling the show may have needed slightly more rehearsal. But, despite that there was some nice interaction between the two couples and my favourite both as a character and actor was George played by Malcolm Jeffries. A sort of Machiavellian fixer, George is the realist of the group, never flustered by anything, he is the epitome of ‘keep calm and carry on’ and Malcolm plays him beautifully.
Oscar Selfridge has designed a really intriguing set that utilises various doors hinged together that the cast move around to create locations. As a device in a small theatre it works well and Director Georgia Leanne Harris has obviously drilled the cast well in their movements to keep the scene changes short and effective.
Overall then, whilst I thought James Bonney MP was a pretty good piece, I do think there were some missed opportunities and the story could do with more fleshing out. Set in ‘the London of today’ it actually felt as if it was a year or so ago, not a long time in the real world but an era in politics. The writer seems to identify more with the left of the Labour Party than the, for want of a better word, mainstream and this shows in the writing but as a bit of an occasional left-winger myself, I didn’t find this to be a problem. All told James Bonney MP was entertaining and worth a visit.
Review by Terry Eastham
James Bonney, the swashbuckling moderate, the (ladies) man of the people doesn’t take kindly to enemies within – not his new leader who believes in something called socialism nor his local rival who thinks he’s sold out. Whose business is it if he’s having an affair? His political rival lives with his daughter while his agent fancies his wife. No one said life was perfect. Can James maintain his position, crush internal enemies and secure his place in history? And what does he have to do to bag that shadow cabinet post?
RedNeedle Productions presents the world premiere of James Bonney MP a new, highly topical political comedy by Ian Buckley.
James Bonney MP runs from Tuesday 20 June – Saturday 8 July at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, London SE11.
Andrew Loudon (James Bonney) was Father in The Railway Children at King’s Cross Theatre and he appeared at the Finborough Theatre in both The Oedipus Table and the English premiere of Robert McLellan’s The Flouers o’Edinburgh.
The rest of the cast are: Malcolm Jeffries, Ciaran Lonsdale, Karen McCaffrey, Louise Tyler, Elian West.
Creative team: Director: Georgia Leanne Harris. Designer Oscar Selfridge.
Producer Ian Buckley for RedNeedle Productions.