Trafalgar Studios, 15 – 24 October 2008

Reviewed for the London Theatre Blog

Making new writing accessible is Paines Plough’s business. Later is a new writing ’salon’ in which playwrights curate playwrights to showcase work in progress, previews, experiments and rehearsed readings. At only £5 per ticket it’s affordable to practically everyone, and starting at 10 p.m. it’s accessible even to those seizing opportunities for overtime.

Tonight it’s the turn of Mile End playwright Dan Rebellato to curate, and the result is a rehearsed reading of Fear and Misery in the Third Term, a new piece written especially for the evening by Rebellato, Paines Plough writer in residence Duncan Macmillan and three others. Inspired by Brecht’s Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, the play examines today’s Labour government through a series of short scenes.

Less Epic Theatre and more Simon Stephens, the scenes portray their tenuously linked characters’ experiences of the credit crunch and evaporating Arts Council funding as symptoms of a more pervasive British malaise, embodied in a teenager on a high ledge, leaving messages on his unfaithful girlfriend’s voicemail. There are some excellent moments of black humour: a couple gets bogged down with explanations of global economics in the process of telling their son why they can’t go to Disneyworld; and two investment bankers, livid at being painted as villainous orchestrators of the credit crisis, attempt to outdo each other, Four Yorkshiremen style, with tales of their painful, neglected childhoods.

But it’s only the boy on the ledge who, from his commanding vantage point, can see the big picture: the erosion of fundamental human kindness and decency. It’s something that underlies the comparatively petty complaints of the other characters; which forces the government (as the boy points out) to place adverts on public transport reminding people how to behave; and which leads the boy, originally only on his ledge for some peace, to actually consider jumping, at the behest of unfeeling onlookers interested only in a big spectacle.

Of course, Fear and Misery in the Third Term has now had its airing and may well never be seen again; the point of providing all this detail is only to indicate the level of quality you can expect at Later. What exactly you might experience on other occasions is something you can only discover by going.

Curated by Dan Rebellato

Cast includes Richard Atwill, Kirsty Bushell, Frances Grey, Jonathan McGuinness, Pippa Nixon, Fred Ridgeway, David Sibley, Rosie Thomson and Danny Lee Wynter


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