Review: Feed The Beast, by Steve Thompson, New Wolsey Theatre, until May 16
- Credit: Patrick Baldwin
They say timing is everything – that’s certainly true for both theatre and politics and this week the two come together in perfect harmony for Feed The Beast, a darkly comic, political drama about the ethics of political office in election week.
It’s a new play by Dr Who and Sherlock writer Steve Thompson, directed by the New Wolsey’s artistic director Peter Rowe, which follows the bumpy ride of a new Prime Minister who inherits the job from a high popular ‘personality’ PM who spent more time courting the press than he did on creating policy.
New man Michael Goodlad (Gerald Kyd) wants to change all that. He’s a zealot – a somewhat naive, reformer – and he wants to get a programme of social change underway before he goes to the polls.
It’s a play that rattles along, made up of short, sharp scenes, and it provokes laughs and gasps in roughly equal measure. It’s a play which aims to take politics out of the dusty corridors of Westminster and give it back to the people. But, whereas Yes Minister could be accused to being overly gentle and House of Cards too cynical, Feed The Beast tries to walk a tightrope between the two.
In this is succeeds very well raising lots of early laughs before steadily becoming darker. There are several moments of sharp, emotionally violent outbursts which brought an audible gasp from the audience.
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The title refers to Michael Goodlad’s policy of refusing to court the press and serve up personality pieces for the political sketch writers. He will talk policy but not personality.
However, when the press target his wife and daughter, he becomes aware of the compromises that he needs to make in order to stay in office. Sometimes that sacrifice may include having to sack close friends.
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- 3 Photos of suspected stolen dogs released in bid to find owners
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- 5 Commuter faces full trains on line from East Anglia to London
- 6 Community thanked for helping seriously burned man at Hadleigh petrol station
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The performances are all engaging with Gerald Kyd being a particularly dynamic, if rather mercurial PM and Kacey Ainsworth as a realistically moral chief of staff. The one false note is that during the second half Shaun Mason’s pitbull press secretary becomes rather too unpleasant to innocent civilians and the tone of the play becomes too shrill and shouty.
Nevertheless, director Peter Rowe keeps the audience engaged and the pace doesn’t slacken for a second, carrying the audience forward to an unsurprising but still satisfying conclusion.
Thompson is a skilled writer and even though the characters are there to discuss the possibility of a moral man surviving in modern-day politics, the characters are more than ciphers and remain believable even if they represent the extremes of political values.
With politics likely to remain the talking point for many weeks to come, the opportunity to see an intelligent and entertaining play about what we want from our leaders, is something worth seeking out.