By Guest Blogger : John Hartery
Conviction politicians seem as rare as hen's teeth in the modern world of sound bites, focus groups and consensus driven politics.
Two of the big beasts of British politics from the 2nd half of the last century albeit with quite contrasting political beliefs featured in the Edinburgh Fringe 2015.
First up was a Nottingham Playhouse Production Tony's Last Tape. This was a monologue capturing the close to last recorded tape of the Labour veteran Tony Benn, who died recently. Played by Philip Bretherton the piece mined the extraordinary lifelong diary that Benn kept via a series of daily recordings. The accoutrements we are familiar with from Benn all featured; recording equipment, bananas, smoking pipe and a flask of tea. The huge influence of his wife Caroline, his mother and mother were a constant feature. Benn's political career stretched from the 1950's into this century as he continued to speak on his political beliefs all over the country.
He was at his political peak in the 70's in the Wilson and Callaghan governments and there was a nice devise to allow the character reflect on the power cuts that bedevilled his government. Written by Andy Barrett, directed by Giles Croft with lighting and sound by Martin Curtis this was a very enjoyable work that lasted a little over an hour. Those familiar and unfamiliar with the diaries will get a fine illustration of the man and his lifelong beliefs.
Over in the Assembly Rooms probably the most divisive politician of recent years, Margaret Thatcher, was played by Pip Utton in a novel format. Thatcher the Conservative Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 imposed huge change in Britain and was never backward with her right wing objectives. The format was novel in this way; initially Utton is dressing as an impersonator of Thatcher, then delivers a speech that illustrates the individual very well. Then he switches to a question and answer whilst remaining in character. The audience is invited to ask questions of 'Thatcher' who answers in that familiar way. Utton has researched well and addressed all questions asked with the certainty we remember of her. Frivolous questions were faced scorn. My question about Thatcher's highlighting of the importance of a Willie received an icy-stare that would have terrified any Wet from the era.
Utton is an accomplished character actor and has covered; Churchill, Chaplin and Hitler.
There was an interesting device at the end that, whilst not executed perfectly, enhanced the overall performance.
Two great shows.