The Charming Man

Gabriel Bisset-Smith
Theatre503
(2010)

The Charming Man publicity image

Productions that fall into the category of 'political satire' are hard beasts to review as the intention is rarely just to be funny and there are normally messages that extend beyond lampooning the current political powers. Should the play stand on the merits of production and reception or upon its incisiveness and political intentions?

The Charming Man is set in 2015 as the government is falling apart and the country desperately seeking an alternative to the traditional parties. The Green Party think this could finally be their moment if only they had some policies and a new face of the party.

The poster boy arrives in the form of Darren (Syrus Lowe), an honest youth worker with a desire for change, the pursuit of clear ideals and zero political background. As he enters the arena he quickly realises to change other people's lives for the better he may need to change his completely. Could this country cope with a gay, black Prime Minister?

There are moments in this production of beautifully crafted rhetoric that contrast well with scenes set in the struggling youth club that Darren seeks so hard to keep alive. This juxtaposition of troubles in the real world against political problems works well to emphasise the farcical nature of politics and tests Darren's loyalties and ambitions. The one liners offered in the office based scenes are indeed very witty and are reminiscent of popular television shows Yes Minister and In The Thick of It in both style and delivery. Much is made however, early in the play about the Green Party's lack of policies but this later fails to be capitalised on to either present the party as credible opposition or highlight that they are indeed naïve dreamers. The balance inevitably leans towards the comedic and whilst this does provoke a good audience response does render some of the scenes more akin to a sketch show than a full length play.

The theme of refreshing, truthful politics is a constant, yet as the election fever wheels start moving it becomes more and more clear that each character has sacrificed something of themselves to try and achieve 'a greater good' and in doing so have lost this honesty that they seek. Sarah Berger captures the dry wit of many female politicians and David Verry the pompous voice of experience.

Thoughtful, funny and nicely paced, the production contains plenty of laughter lines and many points are well observed, but the plot does become rather fantastic rather quickly and this removes its potential for a really hard hitting punch.

Runs until 13th November

Reviewer: Amy Yorston