My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

A lesson in politics from the USA

on May 10, 2015

People often say that the UK has more in common with the US than with Europe. This might be true, but when it comes to elections, we couldn’t be more different. In Great Britain we’re lucky if even 50% of people make the effort to vote, but we all complain bitterly if the party we support doesn’t get into power.

This year was one of the highest turnouts we’ve had, yet the result still gave way to violent protests in London the following weekend. Democracy. Does it really work when a nation used to voting on X Factor and Britain’s Got [very little] Talent are allowed to choose a government?

But that’s beside the point.

Because sometimes an election can be fun and on election day myself and a group of #LDNTheatreBloggers (organised by my lovely friend Rebecca Felgate from Official Theatre) headed west to The Eel Brook to see a little something from London Theatre Workshop.

Vote for Me, written by Scott Elegreen and Drew Fornarola, takes us backstage behind the US presidential campaign, revealing the dirty tricks, hidden agenda and corruption behind an election. With musical numbers. Obviously. And audience participation. Who do we want to vote for?

Well, when the show starts I’m not feeling the love for either candidate.

Janet Tilghman (Emily Lynne) is a smart, opinionated woman who seems to be running because she was bullied at school. She’s flustered and rash – too keen on giving her own opinion than really thinking about the nation.

Her opponent “Call me Buddy” Rounsaville (Hans Rye) on the other hand has no real brain and is standing for president because his wife Amy (Jennie Jacobs) wants him to.

Mediating the pair are show host Robyn (Lucy Grainger) and their advisor (Joe Leather) who refuse to take any nonsense from either of them and are the real people running the show.

V4M (1184)

Yet surprisingly this musical is quite something. The audience learn a little bit about American politics, but also have a good laugh at its expense. Some of the policies are ingenious – Janet’s initial answer about war is ‘Bring troops home’ but her real policy is Middle East Disney – complete with showstopping dance number and Minnie Mouse ears. Genius. That alone got her quite a few votes from the audience.

MM

Scandal Tango is another good song and dance number (albeit inspired from Rent), but it is Lucy Grainger who steals the show with her incredible photographic memory, as she lists (in song) each country who has a higher turnout for an election. Even the UK was higher as the US came in 113th place.

When the audience do get to vote, we choose Janet. Perhaps because – like most of the audience – she’s a woman, or perhaps because she seems to want it more. Who knows? Anyway the blue team won (Prophetically?).

This is a very ambitious production – complete with tap numbers, umbrellas, flags, top hats, masks, air horns, voting slips and all sorts – but it works. It’s funny, educational (ish) and the script and music flow very well. Characters are believable (although not one of them is particularly likeable) and the stage itself is impressive.

And I got to pretend to be president.

4*

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