Christopher Brandon, David Verrey, Kate Sissons, Sam Pamphilon, Sarah Berger, Simon Rivers,
Gabriel Bisset Smithís political satire is both witty and perceptive and, at times, even quite moving.|
The play tackles some essential social issues through the story of youth centre worker Darren and his dream of making a difference.
At the start of the play, Darren, a young black man, is plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight as the new leader of the Green Party.
Darren, as played by Syrus Lowe, is both enthusiastic and vulnerable, an intrinsically likeable young man. The Greens, the only political
party in 2015 Britain that hasnít lost all credibility, are drawn to his energy and passion.
Darren has big ideas for the Greens and, encouraged by his boyfriendís belief in him, he's determined to change things for the better. One of his key issues is the importance of bringing culture to the
nation's youth, something he's convinced will create a brighter future. But in 2015 populism rules to an even greater extent than it does today; the leadership of the
Neo-Liberal Democrats is dependent upon who wins Politicians on Ice and neither Darrenís ideals or his sexuality sit well with the public.
The Green Party is 'owned' by a pin-striped capitalist, Kenny Fox, played by Christopher Brandon. Fuelled by avarice and a passion for extreme sports the South African
businessman is overjoyed that the British public never talk to one another, as it is this apathy and
lack of communication that has allowed the NHS to be bought by Capita and him to go game hunting with
a nail gun. Fox insists that for the good of the party Darren must make certain sacrifices. These start small, with his dress sense, but soon he is being asked to give up his relationship, and eventually his very sense of
self is compromised. Seasoned politician, Marcus, played by David Verrey, is well aware that whilst a black candidate might do well, the fact that he is also gay makes him unacceptable. Marcusí own loss of hope in this area is rather touchingly portrayed by Verrey.
Director Paul Robinson keeps the play moving. The frequent scene changes are tightly handled adding to the dynamacy of the piece.
The writing is funny but never detached and Bisset-Smith never lets the political overshadow the personal issues at stake. There are several poignant moments and the scenes
between Darren and a troubled teenager from his youth centre are particularly well drawn. Played by Simon Rivers, this smart mouthed rudeboy, Suman, with a brother involved in gang shootings and an unstable
home life, represents the very demographic that Darren is so eager to help. But as
he rises up the rungs of the political landder these issues slip lower down the agenda and Darren starts to recognises himself less and less.
This is an enjoyably human take on political satire. The situations are exaggerated, but just within
the realms of reality to be comically believable. Some of the exchanges feel forced but this is redeemed by the ease of interaction
between the actors on stage. This is most apparent in the intimate scenes between Darren and his boyfriend, Luke, played by Sam Pamphilon.
While it works as comedy, The Charming Man is also a very thought provoking play. Though there are a few moments that donít quite
achieve their desired effect the direction is fluid, the writing intelligent and the performamces well-judged.
Read our Q & A with Theatre 503's Paul Robinson and Tim Roseman
- Gillian Fisher
For more theatre reviews, come and visit us at Exeunt
Antonioni Project, Barbican
Du Goudron et des Plumes, Barbican
King Lear, Roundhouse
Double Falsehood, Union
Twisted Tales, Lyric Hammersmith
Less Than Kind, Jermyn Street