(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 7 May)
There’s something deeply ironic in watching a play about a fictitious British prime minister set in his Downing Street office on the evening of a real General Election. Steve Thompson’s Feed the Beast is a co-production between the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre. It’s a comedy with bite.
Our protagonist is Michael (gerald Kyd), swept into office as the new broom which will sweep clean. He intends to start as he means to go on to (as he hopes) a second term by standing by every one of his pre-election promises. He starts by firing his former deputy and continues by banning any contact (open or covert) with the media – that’s the beast of the title, of course.
At first Michael’s Chief of Staff Sally (Kacey Ainsworth) is happy with the squeaky-clean image, though realist enough to know that both print and on-line journalists can (and will) fabricate a story if one is not handed to them. Enter a real rottweiler in the pugnacious form of Scott (Shaun Mason), foul-mouthed and ferocious as he grows his apparently minimal job as Michael PR person.
While Michael’s wife (Badria Timini) and daughter (Aimée Powell) attempt with minimal success to to settle into their new goldfish-bowl existence, there’s a piranha also circling for blood, columnist Heather (Amy Marston). In the world of politics, innocence is always going to be a victim and the scapegoat.
It’s directed at a rattling pace by Peter Rowe with an effective set by Libby Watson and vividly energetic lighting effects by Simon Bond. This all shows off Kyd’s heartfelt performance; there are times when you want to shake some realism into the man – while acknowledging that he may (just may) be right to stick to his principles.
Mason is another actor who gives a larger-than-life performance. There’s a deliciously cool menace in Marston’s journalist and an eagerness well tempered by pragmatism as Ainsworth shows us the limitations of apparent power. it’s a play for its season, certainly. But a day is a long time in politics.
Feed the Beast runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 16 May.