Just in case you haven’t had enough politics recently or even if you hate the entire political scene, treat yourself to a trip to Theatre503 and see “EleXion” an ambitious project by Theatre503’s five resident writers depicting the effect the general election has upon a community. Presented as a series of stand-alone, but linked, short plays, “EleXion” is set just before the British General Election in May 2015
Starting us off was “Negotiation for a Coalition” by Neasa O’Callaghan a story about a twenty one year old middle class girl, Gina (Florence Hapgood) and her slightly older working class boyfriend Louis (Arthur McBain) visiting Westminster just before the election. Gina is very excited as she is about to vote in GE for the first time. Louis on the other hand is a bit more cynical about the whole process, believing that in his constituency where the incumbent MP has been in place for a good many years, his vote just isn’t worth it. This leads to a massive argument between the two of them with a negative outcome for both. Is this the end or is there some way the two people from different backgrounds and political viewpoints can find a way to form a lasting coalition?
Next up we met Chrissy (Katherine Ellen-Katz) and Marci (Caoimhe Farren), two political advisers in “Spaghetti with a Spoon” by Ella Greenhill. Although they are friends, and quite possibly more, the two of them are working at quite a high level for opposing parties in an election where negative campaigning is considered a legitimate part of the process. Over a clandestine coffee away from the prying eyes of the media, both ladies let slip things about their boss to each other leading to each of them being tempted to make political use of their new knowledge. Can their friendship survive or will a drunken chat over a bucket of chicken change their lives forever?
The third play and my personal favourite was Brian Mullin’s “Poles for UKIP” which got my interest from the title alone. Pavel (Jack Farrar) is a commodity dealer standing for election as a PPC for UKIP. Pavel is also Polish and is having to overcome not only the disbelief of the electorate but also the hostility of the Polish community where his grandmother Babula (Bogna Bargiel) lives and runs her bakery. Assisting Pavel is another unlikely UKIPper, Vishwa (Reena Anjali) who has arranged for Nigel himself to come and endorse his Polish candidate. Pavel and Visha are both highly intelligent and talk about the reasons they joined the party, stopping torrential waves of immigrants from Istanbul and other such places coming to the UK and leaching seems to be their main worry. Pavel is very excited to be meeting Nigel and practices his speech with is both touching and amazingly cheesy at the same time. Unfortunately, there is a change of plan and Nigel’s wife Kirsten arrives instead and Pavel’s grandmother on realising Kirsten is German, reacts as if she has just had an attack of gastroenteritis and due to the wonders of mobile phones and the internet becomes a YouTube sensation. Hopefully publicist Anna (Jessica Sim) can help rescue the situation.
The fourth offering was “Polly” by Vinnay Patel. An extremely well written piece that had me confused at the start but as it progressed, and all the pieces came together, I realised what a great piece of political theatre I was seeing. In a non-descript bar some friends are having a post-election drink. Jennie (Denise Stephenson) may be old and drunk but she is a very wise woman. Jennie, knows how to manipulate the men around her whilst still giving advice to the desirable Polly (Katherine Hurley) who has had flings with Drew (David Hemsted) – the statesman of the pack who will go to any extreme to be with her, Julian (Jake Ferretti) – younger, more naive and spends a lot of the time feeling ‘unwell’ thanks to his mentor Drew and Rob (Hassan Khan) – the brash, smooth operator who wants Polly but is also prepared to look elsewhere to achieve his ambition. There is a lot of maneuvering going on as everyone tries to win Polly’s favour, even at times prepared to go way outside their comfort zone to please her.
Finally, “Chicken and Chips” by Chloe Todd Fordham is set on election night itself. Tower Hamlets chicken shop owner Aziz (James Harrison) is throwing a party with free chicken for all. Unfortunately, the only person to turn up is his shop assistant Aisha (Nita Mistry) and, as they wait to watch the election night coverage, they talk about many things. They discuss what happened in the polling booth earlier in the day when Aisha’s brother Abha (Dayo Koleosho) went to vote. The story of his treatment is pretty horrific and, very relevant to the election in real life. The two of them also discussed Aziz’s status as a resident in the UK and his fears that although he has Indefinite Leave to Remain, he would not be allowed back in the UK should he go and visit his mother in his old country. This all culminates with the ending of the show as a whole, set in 2035 when, with all the cast on the stage, Abha announces his intention to stand for parliament and his highly personal reasons for doing so
All told, “EleXion” makes an interesting evening’s entertainment with its various looks at different aspects of politics and the political process. Whilst I did feel that at times there was an obvious political bias in some of the writing, all five plays kept my interest and, at times, actually made me question some of my own political belief system. Nights that leave me traveling home still considering what I have just seen are wonderful and really prove the power of combining great writing and excellent acting to produce really good theatre.
Review by Terry Eastham
Marci and Chrissy, two political advisors, struggle to balance the personal and political. Aziz throws an election night party at his chicken shop. Pavel and his mum prepare to have their moment in the spotlight. Gina and Lewis meet in the houses of parliament to make their voices heard, whilst Abha, a politicised young voter, comes of age and a party of his friends gather in the local pub to celebrate their right to vote.
These pieces are being written and rehearsed right now to capture the feeling of the nation prior to 7th May 2015. The immediacy of these pieces exemplifies the relevance of writing that Theatre503 has come to be known for.
The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW
Tuesday 5th May – Saturday 9th May 2015, 7:45pm
Saturday 9th May 2015