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Lottery review at Pleasance Theatre, London – ‘bold, bright and frivolous’

Rhys Tees and Ava Pickett at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Greg Goodale Rhys Tees and Ava Pickett at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Greg Goodale
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Set in a low-key fascist dystopia where voting has been replaced by the luck of the draw, Lottery is an unapologetically shallow political satire from writer and director Simon Paris. Developed through the New Diorama Theatre’s Graduate Emerging Theatre Company programme, the show still feels underwritten, labouring the point that power corrupts.

While Paris plays up the farce, he does draw some impressive turns from his cast, and shows restraint with some especially slow-burning gags. The play’s wordless opening – where two intensely awkward characters let their hands drift tentatively together on public transport – displays brilliant comic timing.

Randomly selected to serve as Prime Minister, Ava Pickett makes a nameless, “average in every way” citizen her own, veering between overwhelmed incompetence and desperation to succeed. Opposite her, Rhys Tees channels the bluster and condescension of David Mitchell’s more grotesque comic creations as a Mephistophelian, moustache-twirling permanent secretary. Whether casually deceiving the public, shattering the fourth wall, or dancing about in a black unitard, his presence dominates the production.

Magdalena Iwanska’s vivid set and costume design begins with a palette of muted greys, then explodes into the Day-Glo colours of a set of highlighter pens. These shades seem to shift even more starkly under Guido Garcia Lueches’ equally garish lights, which snap between muggy violet and blazing hot pink.

A wacky electronic soundtrack by Luay Eljamal, peppered with pseudo-erotic gasping and barnyard squawks, completes the feeling of the gaudy and absurd spectacle which contemporary politics often resembles.

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This cartoonish satire from emerging company Fictive Theatre is bright, bold, and entirely frivolous