Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Mob

John Galsworthy
Orange Tree Theatre
(2003)

Sam Walters has a knack of unearthing politically relevant plays from unlikely sources. For the first play in the Orange Tree's autumn season, he has managed to do so again with John Galsworthy's 1914 anti-war play, The Mob.

This is the tragedy of a politician, Stephen More (Kevin Doyle), who believes that his own moral beliefs will be compromised if he does not stand up and speak out condemning a war against "heathens" that is actively supported by his own government. The fact that he will potentially lose his standing, his job and far more does not stop this man from attacking the "national cynicism" that he sees. The parallels with the likes of Robin Cook and Clare Short are irresistible and give The Mob a real contemporary resonance.

The play may not be of the highest standard, sometimes looking rather like high-class soap opera as characters with little depth are used to make points, but after the interval it shines. This is the result of a series of intriguing set-piece debates between More and his opponents and vilifiers.

First, he takes on Bernard Holley as his grieving father-in-law, an upstanding man of the old school who cannot understand how his daughter's husband can attack an honourable war that has already taken his son's life. Next, it is More's tearful wife, well played by Susie Trayling, who threatens to break up the family if he will not relent and finally, like Caesar, he takes on and stands up to the mob.

While the writing is not of the highest standards, The Mob is a real eye-opener as moral issues that have been debated ad nauseam over the last six months in the United Kingdom and beyond are shown to be little different from those that were worrying people ninety years ago.

Yet again, Mr Walters, director of both the play and the Orange Tree, is to be congratulated on a thought-provoking production.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher