Obama-ology

Aurin Squire

ABG Productions

Finborough Theatre

From 30 November 2014 to 16 December 2014

Review by Philip Fisher

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As America begins to contemplate the next campaign leading to a change of President in January 2016, the Finborough warms us up with a fine play about politicking US style written by an African-American whose work has not previously been seen in Europe.

It is set amongst Democratic Party campaigners in 2008 doing their damnedest to make Barack Obama the country's first African-American leader.

The pivotal figure is the talented Edward Dede's fresh-faced Warren, an aristocratic Black New Yorker who draws the short straw of a voluntary job trying to mobilise the underclass of East Cleveland, who might just be that extra something that it takes to elevate Obama to the Presidency.

The playwright, together with a versatile cast of six under the sure direction of Tommo Fowler, explores front line campaigning from almost every angle.

They wittily demonstrate the inevitable stresses that 90-hour weeks impose on activists, not to mention the personal issues and encounters with would-be voters and bigoted police officers, which are all part of this rarefied life's rich tapestry.

In the early scenes, the prissy, preppy Warren hardly impresses the mid-Westerners due to a perceived reluctance to roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty.

The turning point is his meeting with an illiterate single mother, Cece. Pearl Mackie, who is a star in the making, imbues this clichéd character with rich humanity, breaking off for a further cameo as in-your-face Caits to confirm her virtuosity.

Cece may tick every box in the loser's playbook but is enthused to become a political activist so that she can say that she was there and made a difference at least once in her life.

A bond develops between the two outsiders leading to a series of ups and downs but then some rousing scenes as their efforts begin to pay off both personally and on a wider canvas(s).

The very well organised Aurin Squire draws out a number of significant likenesses between the pair too, leading to an uplifting, if perhaps overly convenient, ending to a highly enjoyable and informative couple of hours.

The evening is a resounding success thanks to a lively script that leavens the serious issues with apt humour, a series of gripping episodes and the efforts of a well-drilled and more than capable cast that is completed by Katherine Newman, Amanda Wright and Peter Caulfield, all of whom switch effortlessly between numerous roles.