The Illustrious Corpse

Tariq Ali
Soho Theatre
(2003)

The Illustrious Corpse of the title is that of "Othello" Jones, Home Secretary today and thus the first Black Cabinet Minister. It takes little imagination to see that to a left-wing activist like Tariq Ali (and his mouthpiece on stage, Desdemona Jones) the title refers to the Labour Party and its ideals.

The play starts as our modern Shakespeareans meet in 1979 at a march to support the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. It then advances to 2003 as Messrs Blair and Bush launch the war in Iraq. As Home Secretary, Jones, played by Trevor Thomas, would have little choice but to offer support but by this stage he really does believe that it is right.

His wife, an unreformed left-wing doctor, finds his political sell-out (not to mention badly-hidden adultery) too much and does away with him.

The arrival of a massively over-the-top police chief allows her to defend her actions and espouse her political views taking numerous pot-shots at the current New Labour Government of Mr Blair.

The plot has little depth but Tariq Ali's views are always interesting and give Kristin Milward the chance to deliver an energetic and well-acted performance as Dr Jones.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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