We are in a village in East Lancashire in Metamorph Theatre’s latest production for Vault Festival, where Sharon (Rachael Hilton) and Dan (Eoin McKenna) wait for their new MP, Perdita (Phoebe Batteson-Brown) “from the South” to arrive.
With the North still in crisis despite promises to the former ‘red wall’ seats and a handful of ‘forever blue’, Right Dishonourable Friend (written by Batteson-Brown & McKenna) could not come at a better time.
With its satire aimed at both sides of the geographical divide, there are laughs to be had, but the final twist is too dark and disagreeable for my taste.
Without spoiling too much, I hoped that this party climber might be different, not just open and caring with a drink in her hand. But that’s politics!
I didn’t leave feeling that catharsis, and that’s a small criticism of a worthy play that supports a charity for the LGBTQ+ homeless (Stonewall Housing).
Sharon is a foul-mouthed, soap-opera addict, an old-fashioned Northern stereotype. As a working-class Lancastrian myself, I do recognise such people, but they are disappearing just the same as the pie contests at village fetes.
A more interesting character is that of Dan, gay, idealist, and the type of person with genuine ideas we used to have in the House of Commons before money and privilege took over.
His attempts to help troubled young Alex (also Hilton) are commendable, and the scenes between them, although short, seem ripe for further development. The storyline, as it is, feels a little undercooked.
Then there’s Perdita, daddy’s girl (daddy being one of the former ministers in one of the great offices of state), breezing in expecting a large team and instant approbation.
Tricky to warm to and equally stereotypical of the prosecco-guggling airheads who see deprived towns as necessary evils to a cosy job, she’s played well despite the character’s lack of depth.
Right Dishonourable Friend, directed by Kayla Feldman, is a good play with some interesting points to make, but it doesn’t feel quite comfortable or finished in its present form.
However, Batteson-Brown and McKenna can be proud of their work under the production name Enough Helen which hopefully will kick off some discussion around support for LGBTQ+ people outside the big cities.
You can see Right Dishonourable Friend in the Cage at Vault until tomorrow, 18 Feb. Ticket link: https://vaultfestival.com/events/right-dishonourable-friend/.
Image credit: Lidia Crisafulli
#saveVAULT – London’s biggest fringe festival has to find a new home from 2024 & needs funds – more info here.