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Theatre Review Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough, Park Theatre, London

Satire on the 2015 general election is something of a damp squib

THE OUTCOME of the 2015 general election was a smack in the face for the Parliamentary Labour Party, exposing its fundamental inability to provide credible alternatives to the catastrophe of the Cameron-Clegg coalition and cementing the shift to the right in the Tory government.

Using the election campaign of that year as the context for his political satire, writer Ben Alderton attempts to lampoon political leaders and the methods they deployed in pursuit of power. Thinly veiled caricatures of Miliband, Cameron and Clegg  expose their personal and political weaknesses and the corrupt and cynical culture that defines our political institutions.

Successful satire needs to interpret political truths in a way that exposes the absurdities, contradictions and frailties that infect the political system and the individuals who inhabit and exploit it. The failure of this production is that the caricatures of the key individuals are simply not convincing.

Ned Contraband (Miliband) is portrayed as a flaky opportunist and, pulled in opposing directions by his personal life coach Will and his hard-headed political adviser Sharon Slaughter, he has no political spine and flails around like a kite in the wind.

The former Labour leader has his failings — among them his lack of authenticity and indecisiveness — but essentially he was more sinned against than sinning.

David Carter (Cameron) is similarly unconvincing. There’s little of the ex-PM’s faux sincerity on display; instead we’re presented with a vain and self-congratulatory bully which has some resonance but overall is too one-dimensional.

Chiming more closely with the real person, Cameron’s doormat Nick Clog (Clegg) provides legitimate cause for occasional laughter but more could have been made both of his failure to distinguish public service from personal ambition and his overarching dishonesty.

The complementary players — the leaders’ political advisers and life coach Will — are more compelling because they are are constructed characters rather than mere caricatures.

In a nod to future events, there is reference to Jeremy Corbyn (Corbz) who, in the guise of a mystic monk, appears sporadically to offer enigmatic insights on the main protagonists and who closes the production with an appeal to respect the many, not the few.

The best than can be said of this show is that while it offers diversion, it could have been so much better. There may be instances of real substance in some of the lengthier speeches but overall these are subsumed in a sea of silliness and slapstick.

Runs until May 18, box office:


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