After three nights of pantos, I was certainly ready for some straight theater, and Hope at the Royal Court seemed promising. A “a funny and scathing” “urgent” political play sounded like just the thing for me, since I feel really angry about what’s been going on in the UK since the ConDem coalition got in and I think it’s exactly the kind of topic that is well handled by playwrights – fast to get out the satire while the burn is still there.
The plot is about a group of councilors in a smallish town in the Labour part of England who are having to make decisions about where to make cuts in order to manage their budget under the much reduced financial situation they’ve been handed by Westminster. Now, as an American, I was finding a lot of the background information very confusing. I didn’t get the feeling these people actually were elected locally – they seemed to be picked by their party – and they seemed to depend solely on money derived from the central government to cover their expenses. They did point out that they could raise some taxes, but that there was a (Westminster generated?) law that tax rises over 1.9% had to go to “the people” for approval. The near complete reliance on external money and the total non-concern with re-electability was a change in world view I had to accept; but an environment in which a local government was controlled by the opinion of the central government about how they spent their money blew me away – tabloid press hysteria was winning the day and being so swayed by social media was hard to conceive. Nobody in Arizona gives a second thought to DC complaining about how Arizona makes their budget; and DC would never tell Arizona to go back on a budget they’d made. Setting voting districts, maybe: but not spending money.
But I do understand all too well that the current government has managed to dance away from taking responsibility for cuts by letting “local” governments figure out their own budgets and then take the heat. But where, I ask, is the rage about the people who decided to cut the money in the first place? How did it become the different people who might lose money fighting against each other? Watching the little people running around on stage (for little they were from my perch in the balcony), the whole thing just seemed tragic and depressing. What is wrong with people? How has saving the banking industry and making it easy for international corporations to move their profits to their shareholders instead of spending it in the country where it was earned become the status quo? Why aren’t people more outraged? If only Hope had really been a comedy instead of being a play with some funny bits (best scene: schoolboy Jake – Tommy Knight – trying to be ultra suave with councillor Julie – Sarah Duncan Brewster – and getting called out for staring at her chest) and a few interesting characters. It sucked all of the hope out of me and left me pretty down. Ah well, back to bread and circuses tomorrow
(This review is for a performance that took place on December 4, 2014. It continues through January 10, 2015.)