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Mothers Against (part of Continental Divide)

David Edgar
Barbican
(2004)

In Mothers Against, David Edgar tries to do for American politics what David Hare did for British in Absence of War. The play focuses on the attempts of Sheldon Vine, played by Bill Geisslinger, to become Republican Governor of an unnamed state, probably Oregon.

The play takes place at the "boot camp" where his campaign team trains him up for the critical televised debate against his liberal, Democratic opponent.

This allows Edgar to tell us a lot about American life and politics through the mouths of an assortment of characters. These include Vine's family, a pollster and his advisers, an intellectual black speechwriter (well played by Derrick Lee Weeden) and Michael Elich as a ratty tactician who cannot hide his irritation at Vine's probity.

The greatest entertainment comes in a mock debate after the interval where the candidate warms up against a TV presenter substituting for his rival. Susannah Schulman looks and sounds like the young Jerry Hall in this part and her character Lorianne gives much more than she gets, at one stage taking over the campaign.

This play suffers from the playwright's need to get his views across at any cost, sometimes sacrificing character for political and satirical points. He is also not helped by Tony Taccone's direction which leaves some of the parts caricatured, especially Vilma Silva's pollster.

This is an interesting play that gives a British audience the chance to learn a great deal about American political warfare. The drawback is that it contains no memorable or fully-drawn characters and therefore does not really work well as a drama.

See also Philip's review of Daughters of the Revolution, the companion play to Mothers Against.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher