Breakfast Plays: Contemporary Political Ethics (or, How to Cheat)

Jamie Cowan
Traverse Theatre
Traverse 3

Contemporary Political Ethics (or, How to Cheat) Credit: Image by Hi Jump. Design by Mihaela Bodlovic

In response to the inevitable postponement of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, its leading theatrical light the Traverse has created a new virtual venue, Traverse 3.

In an attempt to make aficionados feel at home, this 'theatre' has become home to a virtual version of the ever-popular Breakfast Plays, with the theme for 2020 of New Tracks.

Rather than attempting unwieldy, kitschy Zoom productions, the team has decided that they can achieve better results through the medium of a series of audio broadcasts, rehearsed and recorded in only two days.

To open the programme of five plays, the theatre’s Co-Artistic Director, Gareth Nicholls, directs a piece set in a painfully quiet polling station to which barely 5% of the prospective electorate have paid a visit by the time that the final hour commences.

Holding the fort are the two electoral officers, carer Hannah and aspiring politician Terry, respectively played by Anna Russell-Martin and Robbie Jack. Keeping their company is a reluctant school student paying the penalty for academic probation, Bhav Joshi taking the role of Kev.

If the adults are becoming a little fractious due to the inaction, particularly presiding officer Terry, 17-year-old Kev is off his skull with boredom and ready to challenge officialdom and his first view of democracy in action.

An hour that might easily have been as dull for listeners as those in the polling station is spiced up by a dropped ballot paper, causing the kind of problems that scuppered Al Gore’s attempt to become president in 2000, although on a considerably smaller scale.

Simultaneously, Contemporary Political Ethics (or, How to Cheat) begins to debate the kind of serious issues that justify its title, while introducing a rich vein of wry humour.

Having set the ball rolling, in addition to the tricky ethical point, Jamie Cowan manages to address a series of significant contemporary issues including two current government favourites, levelling up and immigration, with a bit of corruption on the side to bring tensions right up to the boiling point.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher