JOEL COLLICK reflects on the election results and the satire and depth of HATS new show ‘The Coalition’
The 8th of May. The morning after. It was less about regret and more about anger.
It was the immediate aftermath of the General Election results and many in Cambridge were furious. No surprises there. Fuelled with enough champagne socialism to fill the titanic those preparing to drink from those flutes of righteous triumph hit that iceberg hard. Yet now, done is the diatribe. Indeed, gone is the gloating (the little that there was anyway). Four weeks on and it’s obvious what was missing from this whole episode; humour.
Safe and secure, far away in time from the brief era of pitchfork-and-torch bearers out to kill the Tories in the village, it’s about time we reflected on the politics of our day without getting too angry. When I saw, then, that the Homerton Amateur Theatre Society were putting on a production of a student-written political satire, The Coalition, I knew I’d have to see it. So I invited myself to a rehearsal.
“Politics, cross-dressing and fellatio, this play has got it all.” That’s how Adam Butler-Rushton (Nick Clegg) described the play. And he would be right. It really has got it all. The backdrop to the play is the 2010 General Election results and David Cameron being coerced into coalition with Nick Clegg. The play details real-life political actors having to deal with the issues of their (and our) day, but supplemented with just so much more. The Coalition details everything from public politics to romantic affairs, with comedy ranging from sparkling wit to slapstick farce.
The most striking aspect of the play was its characters. All recognisable political players, journalists and analysts of our time they are stunningly well interpreted and acted, and are truly brought to life dynamically and explosively. As Michael Tigchelaar (David Cameron) notes, “I never knew Cameron was such a prick until I played him.”
However, more noticeable perhaps is just how two-dimensional they are. From a posh, blustering Boris Johnson, to a pitiful, whipped Nick Clegg, you’re in for an hour of crude cardboard cut-out mock ups. Yet, this coarseness and lack of depth of character is not at all a weakness of the play.
“The purpose of the play”, the writer and director, Jonathan Shamir, tells me, “is not to satirise our politicians, but rather to satirise our perceptions of politics.” For while the male (and sassily) acted Theresa May, and the whiny, awkward Ed Miliband are there to be laughed at, we’re really laughing at ourselves. For it’s our own impressions that are on stage. The play is more sophisticated than a mere mockery of individuals as it holds up a mirror to the audience.
It’s an interesting feature of British politics that while there is so much contempt for our politicians, the response is far from revolutionary. We’re just too polite, you see, and we can’t really be fucked; Russell Brand seems to be the only one in the country indulging in wet dreams of utopian revolutions. For pretty much everyone else, our reaction is rather an amused acceptance of the predictability of politics. Bitterly entertained, we lament about broken promises, expenses scandals and so on, and our outlet of escapism is our own mental caricature of politics. The Coalition exploits this crevice of our minds and tests our assumptions of politics, following our perceptions to the (sometimes plausible) logical extreme. And the results are both poignant and hilarious.
The last five years have been historic, having been governed by the first coalition since the Second World War. We are now in the unique position to view this bizarre era of British coalition politics. Perching just on the other side of the looking glass, where so much has changed, yet so much has remained the same, Shamir’s The Coalition is the perfect dose of comedy and analysis to make this strange experience of being on the other side of the fold, peeking over to the previous sheet of paper, all the more enjoyable.
In all, the play is exceptionally funny and remorseless but also, amazingly, manages to pull at the heartstrings as well. Who knew it was possible to feel sorry Nick Clegg (before his entire party was cruelly decimated just a few weeks ago that is)? There is just one downside to this play; it’s location. As Keir Baker (Vince Cable) told me, “It would cost ten pounds, but it’s in Homerton.” Frankly, though, four quid is an absolute bargain (not as good for seeing a preview for free, mind you).
For anyone who likes comedy, especially those politics-lovers out there, The Coalition is truly a must-see.
The Coalition is running from the Tuesday 9th- Friday 12th June, 9pm at Homerton Auditorium for £4. Tickets can be booked here.