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Maydays review at the Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon – ‘an assured revival of David Edgar’s play’

Geoffrey Beevers and Jay Taylor in Maydays at the Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Richard Lakos

Sprawling, cerebral, and at times unflinching in its dissection of radicalism at both ends of the political spectrum, Maydays tells an epic, decades-spanning story of youthful idealism colliding with human nature.

Author David Edgar – whose autobiographical companion piece Trying It On gets a short run in the same space in mid-October – has revisited his original script, first staged in 1983.

This timely revised version draws out moments of resonance between the seismic political shifts of the late sixties, and the polarising uncertainty of the present. The story centres on bourgeois student Martin Glass, played here by a superbly conflicted Mark Quartley, as his views slide from revolutionary Communism to comfortable Conservativism. Struggling with his moral qualms and distrustful of authority, a mounting frustration seethes behind his every step on the road from liberal to libertarian.

Beside him, Lily Nichol is equally strong as his comrade Amanda, adapting to the changing political landscape without compromising her beliefs. Jay Taylor, meanwhile, gives a searing performance as jailed Soviet dissident Lermontov, building to a quietly ferocious speech where he rails against the hypocrisy of those who turn to authoritarianism to preserve freedom.

Director Owen Horsley’s dynamic staging reflects this sense of ongoing upheaval, with the space being dramatically reconfigured in each interval. Simon Wells’ design leaves plenty of room for frequent, fluid scene changes, housing the performance in an industrial no-man’s land of chicken wire and criss-crossing telephone lines, crumbling guard towers and spray-painted chunks of Berlin wall.

Trying It On review at Birmingham Repertory Theatre – ‘energised with humour and humility’

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Assured revival of David Edgar’s epic, ambitious and astute political history