This latest play by Jack Thorne could hardly differ more from his eerily compelling adaptation of the otherworldly Let the Right One In which filled this venue this time last year, before transferring to the West End. Once again, John Tiffany directs, but this is a very down to earth – and very topical – piece, in which the only non-naturalistic element is the tendency of the councillors to indulge in a spot of callisthenic-style exercise every now and then.
Labour council leader, Hilary (Stella Gonet), and her deputy, Mark (Paul Higgins), are in the unenviable position of dealing with the fact that their annual spending has to be reduced by £22 million in the coming year. Where should the cuts fall? On allotments, libraries, street lighting – or the day care centre for adults with learning difficulties that is run by Mark’s ex-wife? There just isn’t enough money to go round in the Conservative-imposed budget and, forced into a corner, they and their fellow council members take an unlikely stand.
The councillors of this unnamed working class town come from a variety of backgrounds. The young, the old and the vulnerable have their say too. Thorne knows his subject and obviously feels strongly that vital, already cash-strapped services should be maintained. As a theatre piece, though, there’s something rather dry and detached about the production, despite convincing performances and the inclusion of an on/off personal relationship between Mark and his younger colleague Julie (Sharon Brewster-Duncan).
Ultimately, the attempt to be even-handed and cover all bases results in a lack of dynamism – but, that said, Hope’s heart is definitely in the right place.
Royal Court Theatre
Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
Until 10th January