With the UK general election over and done with, you’d think that’d be enough voting for one week – but step inside the London Theatre Workshop and you’ll find Vote For Me: A Musical Debate, a wickedly funny satire on US politics from the writers of Avenue Q. Watch the presidential candidates weave through the minefield of difficult questions in “the world’s biggest popularity contest”, aided (?) and abetted by political advisors and ruthlessly ambitious spouses – and then vote for your favourite at the end. For those unacquainted with the US political system, this is a very accessible production. A reference guide in the back of the programme is even provided to assist you.
Hans Rye as inept Republican candidate Buddy Rounsaville frequently turns to his advisor to find out what he thinks, yet comes across as a very amiable, jovial man of the people, backed up by his tigress of a wife, Amy (Jennie Jacobs), whose ruthless streak frequently bubbles over, to great comic effect. By contrast we have the neurotic, try-too-hard Democrat Janet Tilghman (Emily Lynne) who wavers beautifully between the desire to do the best for her country and the pressures of being the first woman president. As the show progresses, the vulnerability in her eyes becomes ever more evident. At her side is her beta-male husband, Roger (Arvid Larsen), resplendent in bland beige, equally unsure of how to fulfill his duty and be “…the First First Lady, who stands up when she pees.”
My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre. To read the review in full, please click here.
In the last year or so, I’ve noticed a growing trend of theatre looking towards the future – imaginings of the world yet to come. Not the Back To The Future world of hoverboards and self-tying shoelaces, but very plausible scenarios. A greater reliance on technology, more frequent outbreaks of civil unrest, a strain placed upon resources. All of these things are present in the brave new world of New Atlantis, a pertinent piece as we approach the General Election in May.
They couldn’t have picked a better building than The Crystal in Royal Victoria, East London (although if you’re not familiar with the area, I’d recommend allowing a little extra time to get there) – all futuristic space-agey glass, vast airy high ceilings and loaded with sustainable engineering – perfect headquarters for the organisation that replaces the failed United Nations in 2036. But in 2050, the Secretary General calls a meeting to announce that she no longer has the energy to fulfil her duties and must step down; it is now down to us as ‘Agents’ to vote for a new leader from 3 possible canditates. A little bit King Lear with added “press the red button now” features. All the while, there is the threat of destabilisation from the ominously named Generation Alpha.
We are introduced to the gravity of the situation through a large screen broadcast: Secretary General Dr. Bryony Weller (Tricia Kelly) speaks with the sort of oratory skill frequently seen in world leaders, yet with a quiet vulnerability. Her age is rather poignant: hinting to the youngish audience that this will be us in 40 years time, approaching old age and regretting not doing more about climate change when we could still make a tangible difference. We are encouraged to explore the building for an hour and educate ourselves on the various policies of each candidate by engaging with characters and real scientists. There are some nice bits of science-fiction styling to the actors’ costumes, whereas the scientists are easily identifiable by their boiler suits.