THE RUSSELL BRAND EFFECT

by Julia Wright

It’s May 5th 2015 and it’s two days before the General Election. What is our show about? Well it has to be politics, doesn’t it? And then our next show is six weeks later. Just giving us time to judge the results and write about our reactions to them. So I’ve had a play to write about the election and then the small matter of curating both evenings. Then Russell Brand throws a curveball and seems to be suggesting we should vote! What???? Has he now invalidated our two shows on a whim? No, luckily, after first panic, it has actually thrown our theme of voting/not voting into the forefront of debate.

I stand up in front of the audience to introduce the first show and the Door is full. Amazing. Who says nobody cares about politics?

We have already had a really useful day of rehearsing with our actors and director, Ali Belbin, doing a superb job. Ali is calm, reassuring, thoroughly prepared and happy to work with the writers. What more could you ask for? The actors are fully involved and keen to produce the best show possible.

On the day of performance, Steve Jackson, is pacing and panicking. He is performing his own piece and is doubting the wisdom of this. What a fool! He is, of course, completely at home and in control as he strides round the stage. He is pretending to be ‘Ted Pigeon, caretaker,’ and as he walks around, moving placards to indicate the titles of the other plays, he gives the audience the benefit of his working man’s down to earth analysis of politics. It is hilarious and thought provoking at the same time.

Liz John’s ‘Duty of Care’ is up next. She has focused on the care system and how it is faring in the cuts – not good, as you might have guessed. The carers and clients are too busy trying to get through the day to focus on politics, even though it touches them so personally.

Mine follows – ‘Fracked Off’ about the conflicts between political parties and political activists. Ellie, fighting against fracking, ultimately decides not to vote and to work outside the system – she thinks the system’s broken. Is she right?

Vanessa Oakes’ ‘An Act of Determining the Total Number of Something’ – what can that be? Ah yes, it’s about counting and set during the actual vote counting. The actors have to time finishing the count with the script – and they’ve done it! Spoiled ballot papers and a human story of desperation throw further light on the way the system doesn’t work for all.

At the end of the performance, the audience is buzzing with comments on the importance, or not, of voting and enjoy the free badges, which can be worn thumbs up or down. Now all that’s left is the actual election….Oh, and I get a week off before I have to start working on the production of the next show.  Help!

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