BWW Reviews: PLATFORM 18: THATCHER'S CHILDREN, BEATS, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh - April 28


This double bill of the winners of the Arches' Platform 18 competition presents two one-hour plays as different from each other as they could possibly be: Thatcher's Children by Gary Gardiner and Beats by Kieran Hurley.

Thatcher's Children is a devised piece "celebrating the life and times of the right honourable Baroness Thatcher". There is no story, but there is lots of political rant. They do not, it turns out, like old Maggs very much. There's a surprise.

The show begins wonderfully with the four performers - Kirsty Byers, Thomas Hobbins, Lucy Gaizely and Gary Gardiner (the competition winner) - wearing Margaret Thatcher masks, brandishing cones of the soft-scoop ice cream Thatcher helped to invent, and marching to patriotic music as they mime the state funeral of Thatcher. We see David Cameron and other guests via video link as sit down to listen to the speeches.

And then the speeches begin. The show is a surrealist rant, interspersed with several musical sections involving dorky dancing. Although most of the set pieces are either creative, witty, or at the very least great fun - the clips of Meryl Streep are a great addition to the normal repertoire of Thatcher stock footage - the unvarying tone and un-nuanced political message become increasingly tiresome.

The emotional glue that holds the show together is deep personal hatred for Margaret Thatcher. As someone whose only memory of Thatcher in power is being given money to buy my own milk at school, I don't specifically want to rip her eyeballs out and stamp on them, as so many of the people in the vox pop street interviews on screen seem to. Perhaps it is because I lack this level of pre-existing vitriol that the show is unable to move me.

Beats, written and performed by Kieran Hurley, is set in the 1990s when the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act made raves playing music "wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats" illegal. (In fact, the law is less draconian than it appears in the play, but the quote is accurate.) At it's core is a very traditional story about a teenage boy who takes ecstasy at an illegal rave, discovering that there is such a thing as society.

It's presentation is not traditional, however, at least not for a stage work. The play takes the form of a dramatised short story. Sitting at a dramatically lit desk, Hurley describes the characters' actions in third person, putting on voices for their dialogue.

Apart from the club-style projections, there is little to justify this being a stage play rather than a radio work or short story at first; but as the show goes on and Hurley's acting becomes more pronounced, it becomes apparent how powerful this presentation style can be.

Hurley is a very charismatic performer, drawing laughs from the audience - and from me - from jokes which really didn't deserve any.

There are plenty of moments that do deserve laughter in the script, however. Hurley has a knack for choosing significant details which satirize his characters gently, making the audience like both them and him in the process.

Traverse Two is transformed into a disco for the show, the live DJ Johnny Whoop pumping club beats into the pink and green-lit smoke. It's a technician's nightmare, but the atmosphere created is electric and greatly adds to Hurley's excellent play.

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From This Author James T Harding

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