This is an explosive new play written by Academy Award-nominated writer David Hare, his 17th for the National Theatre. He has acute antennae and in this new work he ranges over any number of current topics: single-issue politics, domestic abuse, the NHS, the state of the Labour party.
Pauline Gibson is a junior doctor, who becomes the face of a campaign to save her local hospital. She’s thrust from angel of the NHS to becoming an independent MP. In the Houses of Parliament, she crosses paths with her university boyfriend, Jack Gould, a stalwart Labour loyalist, climbing the ranks of the party. As media and public pressure mounts on Pauline to run for leadership of the Labour party, she faces an agonising decision.
It’s a scenario that gives writer David Hare freedom to explore any number of ideas, in particular, whether the virtuous integrity of the single-issue militant can survive the messy compromises of party politics. In a tremendous penultimate scene between Pauline and Jack, Hare hits several bullseyes, such as Labour’s greater interest in process than in votes and its tribal reluctance to elect a female leader. As always with Hare, the play is packed with sharp and witty apercus and highly quotable lines.
For all its faults, the play still fascinates with a terrific performance from Brooke. Even if the play sometimes lacks momentum, it still shows Hare’s capacity to use theatre to take the moral temperature of the times.
UK 2018, 159 min, rated M (offensive language & sexual references), incl one intermission
Directed by Neil Armfield
Starring Siân Brooke, Joshua McGuire, Alex Hassell & Amaka Okafor