Election year promises some rich pickings for minorities on stage

A good Upper Cut but no knock-out

GMT 18:52 Friday ,23 January 2015

 Migrant Voice - A good Upper Cut but no knock-out

Image by Southwark Playhouse
Daniel Nelson

In February, The Tricycle presents Multitudes, in which Kash, a liberal Muslim, prepares his address to politicians about the state of the nation while his girlfriend Natalie, a recent convert to Islam, cooks for anti-war protesters at the town hall.

Young British Asian playwright Vinay Patel's True Brits is about being British of Asian descent, and ranges between the paranoid London of 2005 and the euphoric city of the 2012 Olympics.

In March at The Albany, Black goes to the heart of racial tensions in the UK in response to the arrival of a Zimbabwean family.

A week before the national vote, A New Play for the General Election opens at the Finborough, and the run includes two performances on election day, 7 May.

 So it's a pity that Upper Cut, currently running at the Southwark Playhouse, doesn't get the season off to a better start.

It's ambitious, setting out to confront the issues around Black sections and Black MPS in the Labour Party between 1986 and 2012. The debate over the relative pluses and minuses of Black radicalism pings between the three characters, the firebrand turned ambitious deputy leader ("I have to be a politician who happens to be black. Not a black man who happens to be a politician"), the party fixer, and the cut down but ambitious activist who has had a relationship with both. For anyone who wants more from theatre than song and dance or a gun in the library, it's great to see and hear this important issue acted out against a backdrop of real events, such as the sudden death of Labour leader John Smith. That itself is a good enough reason to go.

Writer Juliet Gilkes Romero tries to do what a writer on a political theme's gotta do, which is to make the debate flow naturally from the characters in whose fate we are invested, but she doesn't quite pull it off. The three-way tangle is all-too-credible but lacks detail and depth. It seems more like a device than a driving force of the drama.

So does the shift backwards in time, which enables us to see in reverse the would-be leader's transition from radicalism to real politik.

I remained interested, wanting to see the next plot shift, but it lacked the spark that would have animated the component parts.

27 January, post-show discussion with Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, and Juliet Gilkes Romer

· Upper Cut is at the Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1,  until 7 February.Tickets £18/£16/£10. Info: 7407 0234/www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/.·        Upper Cut is at the Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1,  until 7 February.Tickets £18/£16/£10. Info: 7407 0234/www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/


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