WHILE THE REAL ONE RUNS….
With the Covid Inquiry surging alongside in a froth of accusations and curses and scandalous Whatsappery, it was laborious to withstand a hasty day-return to Harry Davies’ debut play at Chichester. It’s set round a judge-led inquiry into one other well being disaster: polluted water this time. And like the actual one it’s rife with deleted digital mail, character clashes, personal behaviours and vaulting ambition.
Especially it was value it to see Deborah Findlay because the choose, and John Heffernan as the youngish Justice minister and Lord Chancellor, who was once atmosphere minister throughout the air pollution disaster. Moreover, his mentor-donor-fixer and profession ” fairy godmother” is his previous pupilmaster, within the irresistible type of Malcolm Sinclair as Lord Patrick. He is a scene-stealingly tory-camp previous silver fox in pale pink socks, who has no conscience by any means on the subject of soiled tips and clever leaks to hostile journalists. Though not, it appears, to the friendlier-flirty profile author, a kind of girlish hair-flickers of the outer foyer. She – Shazia Nicholls giving it full faux-goofy-girly work as it’s mentioned some do – is the determine we first see fishing for personal life collection of the “bafflingly single” minister along with his eye on the management.
So it’s one for Westminster bubblewatchers and Thick of It followers, although it aspires extra within the path of James Graham’s extra humane portraits of the best way actual flawed individuals manoeuvre spherical procedures, coverage debates, personalities and the sheer stress of presidency. And Joanna Bowman’s manufacturing does start most enjoyably, with Heffernan amid his aides displaying a masterful skill to challenge a spitefully sneering expression proper as much as the highest gallery, alternating with scenes of Findlay and her authorized colleague (who later has a bafflingly pointless scandal second of his personal). Her humanity, half hidden beneath a protracted varnished judicial dignity, is properly caught.
But a structural drawback is that these alternating scenes run too lengthy , and it will.be extra partaking if every was shorter, virtually filmically flipping between the camps. It lastly hits actual pressure with the wickedly amoral Lord Patrick – whose consumer is the water firm – -planning some very soiled tips to destroy the Judge and distract poilice and media from the minister’s sneaky involvement with the mentioned agency. At which level the minister himself is beginning to quail slightly, develop a conscience.
So the second half is significantly better and quicker, and – no spoilers – culminates in a basic emotional Victorian melodrama of identification and coincidence. Which some have shaken their heads at, and which i did see coming three full minutes forward, however which I truly applaud. Nothing improper with a melodramatic revelation, respect to Mr Davies for daring it. Trim this play right down to a straight, hard-running 100 minutes-no-interval, and with this very positive forged it may tour, go West End. And, sadly, and really feel topical most years…
Cft.org.uk to 11 November