Coalition, Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
If proof were still needed that life imitates satire to an eyewatering degree in these politically strained times, TwentyTwelve has already provided it in abundance. Barely had some storyline stretching plausibility farther than Jess Ennis’s javelin throw been broadcast, when an identical gaffe would pop up in real-life on the actual news. The stuck Olympic clock? You couldn’t make it up, only they did.
In a similar twist of coincidence, the near-future setting of political farce Coalition – tracing the last days of the LibDems in 2014 – seems a tad over-optimistic. Today’s admission by Nick Clegg that his (senior) partners in government have “broken the contract” of the coalition sees him looking almost as harassed as his farcical counterpart does on stage.
So for those who enjoy a bit of blood sports in the afternoon, LibDem leader Matt Cooper’s descent through exasperation to bewilderment and ultimately horrified isolation as his political career and his party crash and burn into oblivion is just the thing to pep up a jaded political palate. Actor Thom Tuck takes the fixed grin of a man trying to hold together a crumbling fantasy and wrings the dishevelled life out it, until there’s a wretched husk before us.
The predictability of the LibDems being shafted by their Tory bedfellows (in life as in art) while admittedly enjoyable, is still predictable. As the only switched-on politician in the room, Jo Caulfield’s LibDem Chief Whip Angela Hornby was from the outset obviously moving the pieces in this game, which is more draughts than chess.
Much-loved Phill Jupitus looks like he’s enjoying playing bumptious Tory, Rt Hon Sir Francis Whitford, Minister Without Portfolio, but he could as easily be delivering the lines on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and he’d earn equal adoration from his audience.
At 90 minutes, it feels too long, yet it also seems a bit rushed. And it has the feel of a play that might work better on Radio 4. It is a first play for both co-writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, whose backgrounds are in politics and improv respectively, and it sounds like it. But worth keeping an eye on to see what they bring next year, if their partnership (like that of the creaking Coalition) survives that long.
Coalition is at Pleasance Queen Dome, daily, 2pm, until August 26. www.pleasance.co.uk