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A View from Islington North review at London’s Arts Theatre – ‘highly entertaining’

A View from Islington North: Sarah Alexander, Joseph Prowen and Bruce Alexander in The Accidental Leader. Photo: Robert Workman A View from Islington North: Sarah Alexander, Joseph Prowen and Bruce Alexander in The Accidental Leader. Photo: Robert Workman
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This production’s title is, of course, a reference to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is MP for Islington North. But he is never named in any of the five short political satires that comprise this bill by high-profile writers, including world premieres by Alistair Beaton and David Hare and previously staged work by Mark Ravenhill, Stella Feehily and Caryl Churchill.

Corbyn looms largest in Beaton’s biting portrait of behind-the-scenes politics in The Accidental Leader, in which a backroom coup on the leader of the Opposition is plotted by a backbencher (Bruce Alexander, flustered with ambition and occasionally flubbing his words). With his eye on the leadership prize, he manages to draw 11 members of the shadow cabinet on to his side.

 

There’s also the inevitable shadow of Tony Blair and the human impact of his disastrous Middle East missions, as two army officers pay a visit to a 43-year-old mother to tell her that her son had died in action in Mark Ravenhill’s The Mother, originally part of his Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat cycle.

Ayn Rand Takes a Stand is David Hare’s clever dissection of free market economics and the limits of freedom of speech, with Ann Mitchell in hilarious, outrageous form as the Russian-born novelist and political operator of the title, making a visit to dispense her wisdom to a British home secretary called Theresa and chancellor Gideon (whose real name is George Osborne).

Stella Feehily also makes a substantial contribution with a very funny portrait of an MP who is being put out to pasture by the chief whip (Alexander again) in How to Get Ahead in Politics, while Caryl Churchill’s Tickets are Now on Sale runs for barely five minutes, playfully repeating the same scene between a couple in variations of scrambled language.

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Verdict
Highly entertaining, fast-moving bill of five plays that are individually short but collectively meaty
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