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The Constituent

4
Seen at the Old Vic.
By Robert Iles - 28th Jun 2024

Coming in at around 90 minutes this is a punchy, fast paced and intriguing show from Joe Penhall. Having audience on stage as well as in the auditorium adds to a sense of the enclosed space of an MPs 'surgery' office where all the action takes place. 

Anna Maxwell Martin as the opposition back-bench MP handles her character superbly - strong, empathetic and still vulnerable. James Corden is the protagonist and, after a slightly over comedic start, really gets into the character - his final scene is superb and very moving. Zachary Hart has a difficult role as the protection office as the part is a bit under-written, but he handles it very well and the interaction between the three is credible and real.

What I found curious about the play was how it roams across so many topics in such a short time. Talk to members of the audience and each will probably identify a different core topic. Therein lies both the flaw and success of this play - each person that sees it can feel it speaks to a topic they care about and yet it is difficult to pin down what this play is actually about. Perhaps that's why I liked it so much, it is a slice of life and life is messy.

Although the dialogue and action is fast-paced, the pace gets lost in the blackout scene changes, which are frequent and overlong. It would have helped, in my opinion to simply dim the lights and let us see the changes, keeping us involved rather than shutting us out then having to draw us in again.

At one point, the MP says "How an we learn to trust again. That's a good question". Given the current political climate, it is indeed a good question.


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