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BWW Review: CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?, New Diorama Theatre


Parabolic Theatre take us back to January 1979, when the Labour government was tottering on the edge of disaster

BWW Review: CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?, New Diorama Theatre

BWW Review: CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?, New Diorama Theatre "Prepare to step through this door into the 22nd January 1979".

My doctor would be pleased with the weight loss, I'd rather miss the internet and I'd have to cram a bit for those O Levels in May - but I'll take it.

And we do, not least because Parabolic Theatre have created a space so beautifully observed, with picture-perfect posters and graphics, Man at C&A costumes and working typewriters, fax machines and calculators, that the immersive experience soon drags you under. And though one particular face and voice on the big, boxy television is still spine-chillingly familiar, it's not long before you recognise Francis Pym and Vincent Hanna. Happy days - well, actually not, but we're still in the shallow end.

Soon we're recruited to solve the problems of the Labour government, relying on lining up every domino in their hand to survive the evening's upcoming vote of No Confidence in the Commons, while industrial unrest stalks the land and union leaders demand inflation-busting pay rises. The Press must be placated, rebel MPs coaxed back and Tony Benn flown in on his beloved Concorde - and we're calling the shots!

We're less an audience and more an ad hoc think tank, deciding strategies and tactics as the evening threatens to spiral out of control. Sometimes "theatre" pokes its head through the whirlwind of meetings, phone calls and briefings, but often one often feels more like one is engaged in a somewhat frenetic induction exercise for the MBA at Warwick Business School. (I can sense this review sliding into a piece of critical reflection compromising 25% of the marks for the module even as I write!)

That said, there are plenty of laughs and everyone has a lot of fun. I realised a lifelong dream in gently persuading an MP that his dalliance with me (a feather boaed Soho showgirl in character) might stay under wraps if he walked into the right lobby, and there were some tour-de-force contributions from other civilians, cutting through the pragmatism and political cant that drove much of the crisis in the first place.

Not everything works. In a long evening with a lot of moving about and an avalanche of information to take in, things are a little too hurried, the "if this, then that" decisions rushed as we lurch from striking lorry drivers to striking er... actors. Issues with the timescale never really resolve themselves, with developments that take months (eg rising inflation, heightening civil unrest) increasing and decreasing within minutes. There's a few anachronisms too, but you'd have to be a churlish old fart to be put off by them.

It's a lot of fun, hugely ambitious and, in many ways, highly relevant as another government faces different problems, but with the same sense of chaos in the air. To be honest, I'd much prefer to have our company of young performers, with their quick wits and underlying decency, in charge than today's shady cabals in their Tufton Street lairs - who wouldn't?

Crisis? What Crisis? is at the New Diorama Theatre until 28 August

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