DramaLondonReview

Triggered – White Bear Theatre, London

Reviewer: Issy Flower

Writer and Director- Emma Burnell

Emma Burnell’s drawn-from–life exploration of local party politics, of emotion versus ambition and the recent history of the Labour Party has a lot going for it. Overall strong performances, some very good speeches and an unflinching desire to accurately represent politics at a local level are a constant of the play, but one feels a desire for more development, more diversity and more dynamic direction.

We are at the Hollingsdene Labour Party Meeting of January 2020, about to delve into the circumstances leading to local Labour MP Sally Finch (Antonia Beamish)’s deselection. Over the next hour, we witness the mild backstabbing, inter-party tensions, political game-playing, and emotional consequences of these actions in a mixture of short two-handed and monologue scenes. These monologues are some of Burnell’s strongest writing, particularly in the opening biscuit metaphor delivered by comic highlight Carrie Cohen, but add to the overall static nature of the evening, our four main characters only appear in the same room together towards the end of the play. Instead, we meet them individually or in duos, which is both wonderful on a character level but lends the production the quality of an audio play. This is not helped by Burnell’s direction, which involves short scene- blackout- short scene, a structure placing emphasis on the dialogue but at the expense of theatrical dynamism. You could close your eyes and have almost the same experience.

But the writing and performances are good, and deserve attention. Burnell excels at writing both broad satirical sweeps at the nature of the Labour Party, more subtle compromises between local and parliamentary politics, and amusing choral set pieces. Beamish’s belaboured MP is the central character of the evening, but is ably supported by Michael Palmer’s Corbynite Jim Marr, possibly the strongest performance of the evening although not as nuanced as he could be, and Catherine Adams’ Safia Peters. Peters’ movement from Labour Party member to potential candidate could be more convincingly foreshadowed, but Adams makes a good case for her character in seeming like a credible, but not infallible, option. In fact all four actors succeed in making their characters seem real, doing it through their performances rather than Burnell’s script, which seems to believe that ‘bloody’ as every other word is the key to naturalistic dialogue.

A short and sharp exploration of the tensions within political parties and people, Triggered is a bite-sized look into how the Labour Party got into its current state, that isn’t afraid to take pot-shots at all sides whilst providing nuanced characters. It just needs a slightly more dynamic and diverse structure and direction to take flight.

Runs until 26 November 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Sharp but static

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