James Bonney MP

Ian Buckley
RedNeedle Productions
White Bear Theatre

Andrew Loudon as James Bonney MP and Malcolm Jeffries as George Jenner Credit: Georgia Leanne Harris
Karen McCaffrey as Christine Bonney Credit: Georgia Leanne Harris
Ciaran Lonsdale as Malcolm Rose Credit: Georgia Leanne Harris
Andrew Loudon as James Bonney MP and Malcolm Jeffries as George Jenner Credit: Georgia Leanne Harris

Dramatist Ian Buckley avoids identifying James Bonney’s party until very near the end of his new play so perhaps it is intended as a general comment on the general skulduggery of contemporary politics and its picture of constituency political rivalry as a portrayal in microcosm of the infighting in our main parties at national level, though it gradually becomes clearer that this MP sits on the Labour benches.

Bonney is not a high flyer, though at one point he is given a very junior post as a Shadow Junior Spokesman for some minor matter, but he seems a career politician in a safe seat who puts spending time with his secretary (who is also his mistress) before meeting with his constituents.

If he ever had any political fire, he has lost it. He is clearly a Blairite, perhaps more from convenience than conviction, but now he is challenged by the threat of a no-confidence motion proposed to the constituency party by a much more left-wing youngster, who just happens to be his daughter’s boyfriend.

At Bonney’s right hand is his constituency agent, George Jenner, his long-standing support and family friend, who’s been in love with Bonney’s wife for years without declaring it.

Designer Oscar Selfridge provides a setting of doors hinged together that can be stretched out in a line or folded in to encircle a leather-topped desk to indicate a variety of settings without suggesting any real location for any of them. Its constant rearrangement in this small space holds up the action of Georgia Leanne Harris’s sometimes pacey production. Is it intended to emphasis Bonney’s entrapment within the situations he has put himself into?

Andrew Loudon’s Bonney certainly seems pretty paranoid, or is he just bemused by Louise Tyler’s long legs as his mistress Jennifer? Things are set up for traditional French farce but that’s not the way they play this. Both play and production seem uncertain whether to emphasise comedy or serious politics. It doesn’t actually offer any real political argument but fails to go for laughs either.

Karen McCaffrey has a splendid outburst as “wronged” wife Christine when she catches her husband with his mistress but the play needs more passion in its politics. Elian West and Ciaran Lonsdale make a plausible couple as daughter Kate Bonney and Malcolm Rose, the serious socialist—though even he is not immune to temptation.

What is missed is a real opportunity to set young idealism against the old “New Labour” attitudes of a generation brainwashed by Thatcherism. Ian Buckley has the agent say of the two sides, “your policies are the same—it’s only your speed of approach that differs.” But that’s not true. In trying to present a “balanced” argument, we don’t actually get one.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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