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A CurtainUp London Review
Set in a local authority in a safe Labour area, the choices that have to be made are, for example, between funding a day care centre for the handicapped and street lighting in an area where sexual attacks have taken place. £22 million has to be sliced off the annual budget covering essential local services and funding for sports, the swimming pool and the arts, like the museum.
Set in a dingy communal hall with steps up to a stage, deputy leader Mark (Paul Higgins) struggles with his pragmatic leader Hilary (Stella Gonet) who wants to take a small percentage off everything. Mark is practising his speech with Julie (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) with whom he has a relationship. His ex wife Gina (Christine Enwisle) runs the day care centre for adults with learning difficulties where Laura (Jo Eastwood) a girl with Down's syndrome makes a heart warming plea for it not to be cut. She describes her work at Macdonald's where she is demoted to scraping bubblegum off the pavement outside.
John Tiffany has inserted some curious movement into the scenes when the councilors discuss policy. On stands at a 45 degrees angle to a desk, another spins on her stomach on the desk, others stretch as they discuss contact with the voters. I'm not sure why. This is the same John Tiffany whose choreography in Blackwatch was so amazing.
The Labour councilors decide that the cutting exercise is impossible and refuse to set a budget. The big guns are sent in from parliament with some comedy exchanges. Alison (Nisha Nayar) quotes the bureaucratic schedules and the result is a no-win for all as double penalties kick in for their refusal to set a budget.
Asian councilor Sarwan (Rudi Dharmalingam) voices concerns as he realizes Asian residents are to be bussed to a centre where the English Defence League, an anti-immigrant right wing group are active. He also articulates the Conservative government policy of penalizing councils in working class depressed areas and how this policy does not hit councils in more affluent areas.
There are some wry situations to laugh at in Hope but the play seems unsatisfying and incomplete. We learn that Hilary (Stella Gonet) is not the champagne swigging socilalist we had assumed, that she lives on a council estate and has a mother with dementia in a care home. Paul Higgins as Mark is full of angst as he tries to do the right thing in an impossible situation. There is also a hopeful discussion between the old leader of the council and Julie's father, George (Tom Georgeson) and Mark's teenage son Jake (Tommy Knight) about the future with a blue sky backdrop.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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