Review: General Secretary (Applecart Arts)

Any comedy drama about the political landscape has to take account of the reality of social media, world leaders coming through from the most unlikely sources, and to take risks.

Applecart Arts’s General Secretary, a two hander written and performed by Cassie Symes and Georgina Thomas, starts with a nod to the work at home status imposed on many of us, with the pair stuck to their screens large and small, dealing with mundane tasks and Zoom requests. We are on familiar ground, with insignificant people.

Suddenly they receive a call which will change their lives: the United Nations have some news. They are now leaders of all the world, the “General Secretaries”. With no experience and no real grasp of what it means to hold power, the stage is set for some amusing scenes, in which the duo play all the characters we see.

There are the two formidable ladies of the UN, bristling because they have all the experience but are being sidelined for two Brits working at their kitchen table, a couple of vaguely familiar news anchors who report on stories in the And Finally … or The Two Ronnies vein, a tech wizard manipulator, and more. It showcases the acting skills of Symes and Thomas and their clear synergy as a comic duo.

Screencaps from General Secretary

As Cassie and Georgie start with good intentions with ideas about achieving world peace and raising money and awareness by telling men to “calm down”, their own ambitions soon get the better of them. Their sisterhood becomes a savage battleground where only one General Secretary can be the winner. There’s something here to be said about the influence of men in the world; and nods to the Eurovision Song Contest and other ways engineered to bring countries together, but they are not explored fully in the time available.

These two are undoubtedly intelligent performers, who have built a company together called Thick ‘n’ Fast. Their ideas are scattergun in their approach but their attention to detail is strong – I feel the satire could have been just a little sharper post-Trump. The points about everything they wear and say now being political as world leaders are well made, but why not utilise modern technology in their ambition just a little bit more rather than televised speeches?

There is potential for this one-hour show to continue to grow, and the premise is absolutely sound, but I was a little confused about why world leaders would be operating from such an unglamorous location. After all, our own Prime Minister has spent millions of public money on renovating a room used for press briefings. Cassie buying a tiara on one-day delivery from Amazon could have been the start of a huge misuse of wealth and power.

General Secretary is a show which displays a lot of good ideas and an interest in digital theatre that brings out a lot of our current preoccupations, but it doesn’t quite work as satire or wacky comedy as a whole in its current form.

You can book tickets to this show until 24 April by visiting Applecart Arts. To find about more about Thick ‘n’ Fast, visit their website.