This new play on austerity tackles the identity crisis at heart of Labour, but suffers from a similar lack of focusby Serena Kutchinsky / December 10, 2014 / Leave a comment
Is there hope for the Labour party? That is the question around which Jack Thorne’s provocative new play pivots. Focusing on the distinctly unfestive topic of austerity, Thorne, a long-time Labour supporter and award-winning screen and playwright, lays bare the identity crisis at the core of Ed Miliband’s party. It’s a theme which feels more topical than ever in the wake of last week’s Autumn Statement, with Labour’s muddled response implying that if in government they would continue public spending cuts. Budgets still need to be slashed, said the Two Eds, although they promised to wield the knife more compassionately.
The premise of Thorne’s play is simple; a Labour council in an unnamed working-class town has to make a budget saving of £22m. The choices facing the town’s motley collection of councillors are stark—there’s a cap on tax, the urban farm has shut and it’s now a toss up between slashing care for the elderly, the young or the disabled. Where will the axe fall and, will pragmatism triumph over principle and emotion?
While the subject matter might sound weighty and somewhat wonkish (aren’t real life politicians bad enough?), Thorne’s playful humour and John Tiffany’s dreamy direction cut through the gloom. There’s even a romantic subplot between the council’s beleaguered deputy leader, Mark, and idealistic newbie Julie. Still, Mother Goose this is not.
“I’m the bah humbug of playwrights,” says Thorne, who once served as Labour councillor in Luton. “The first play I ever did was also at Christmas, it was called When You Cure Me and was about a girl who was paralysed from the waist down after being raped. That wasn’t very cheery either. But, I do hope the audience will find elements of hope amid the depression in this play.”
This is clearly an intensely personal project for Thorne, who joined the Labour party aged 18 in the “shittest act of rebellion” after his mother became disillusioned with the New Labour regime. It’s not the first time Thorne has put his love affair with Labour in the spotlight. He scored a moderate theatrical hit five years ago with 2 May 1997, which focused on the historic night…