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Trying It On

David Edgar
Warwick Arts Centre and China Plate
Traverse Theatre
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The publicity for Trying It On shows a key moment in the show. The playwright David Edgar is holding a card bearing the words “Euro Pop-Right Brexit Trump”.

The words sum up the disorientating shock of the current political period. They are, for David Edgar, a betrayal of the hope of 1968 and something many of the “Sgt. Pepper generation” has contributed to.

Trying It On isn’t quite a lecture. Neither is it quite a play. And it isn’t so insistent on its point of view that you can be certain he isn’t at times simply flying a kite.

You know how people sometimes do that over dinner with friends, slipping some mischief in among the convivial stories of a shared life.

The show is a bit like that. David Edgar, playing himself, is charming, witty and self-deprecating. If you don’t agree with him, don’t worry, he might not agree with himself.

He even arranges some alternate voices to appear at the dinner, sorry I mean performance, including the younger David of 1968 speaking as if from an ancient cassette recorder, saying at one point, “Christ I hope I don’t end up being you”.

Others will appear as he talks about his personal political history from 1968 to now, taking in trips to the US, the production of the important anti-National Front play Destiny and his adventures with the RSC.

He returns more than once to the question of why some of the radicals of his generation defected to the likes of Thatcher and Reagan, and why his generation generally voted for Brexit.

Is he perhaps rehearsing the old cliché about people becoming more conservative with age, or simply expressing vague irritation with the lefties, who voted Leave as the anti-capitalist thing to do? Maybe he is wondering if his support for Remain (if he supports it) is an indication he is slipping into conservatism.

The truth is, he pitches things too lightly to be ever pinned down.

But the mood is optimistic, the performance entertaining and if some part puzzles, no worry, we will quickly be off to another amusing unconnected anecdote.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna