Tag Archives: politics

Theatre review – Out of Order

Out of Order – review for Essential Surrey website

4 STARS. Ray Cooney’s Out of Order proves that farce handled properly can still make for a brilliant evening’s entertainment at the theatre, says Andrew Morris. Showing March 10-11.

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Ray Cooney has been associated with the theatre for a scarcely believable 70 years, initially as an actor but then also as a director and producer of his own trademark farces. Out of Order was first performed at the Theatre of Comedy in the 1980s. This revival will tour the country for 30 weeks. We were privileged to see it at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford, on just the second day of its long run.

Farce relies on structure, confusion, mistaken identity, a little bit of potential tragedy, and perfect timing. And often adultery. And, on this occasion, a sash window.

Out of Order takes place in Suite 648 of the Westminster Hotel, a stone’s throw from the Houses Of Parliament. Which is just as well, because suave Junior Minister Richard Willey (played by local actor Andrew Hall) is about to sleep with attractive young Jane Worthington (Susie Amy) – Jeremy Corbyn’s secretary – when he should be supporting Theresa May and his own Tory party in a crucial vote.

But their adulterous passion is thwarted by the unfortunate discovery of a dead body, wedged in the sash window behind the curtains of Suite 648. What would any self-serving, quick-thinking, philandering politician do in this awkward position? Well, obviously not report anything to the hotel management or to the police. What would Mr. Willey’s wife say, after all? Or the Prime Minister?

No, the only practical solution is to call your broad-shouldered and naive Principal Private Secretary. George Pidgen (Shaun Williamson) is soon caught up in his Minister’s increasingly tangled web of deceit. The momentum of the farce increases from scene to scene, as the quick-thinking politician creates ever more imaginative lies to save his own devious skin. Nothing like real life, clearly.

The Minister’s wife Pamela (Sue Holderness) arrives unexpectedly. As does Jane’s dim husband Ronnie (Jules Brown), suspecting his wife of having an affair and looking for his missing private detective to prove it. And then Nurse Gladys Foster (Elizabeth Elvin), carer for George’s elderly mother, after hearing that the previously shy civil servant appears to have got married that day, without telling them.

All the while, the hotel manager (Arthur Bostrom) casts a superior eye over the sordid shenanigans, and the sharper-than-he-seems room service waiter (James Holmes) cleans up on tips for facilitating the mayhem.

It’s easy to be sniffy about farce, and whilst it may not match Shakespeare for dramatic depth, this production of Out of Order clearly delighted the packed Guildford audience. The updated political references were a nice touch, and the entire cast launched themselves into the chaos of the plot with the energy of a back-bencher making his maiden speech.

An unexpected appearance by Mr Cooney himself, bounding onto the stage to help out when the curtains in Suite 648 collapsed in sympathy with the sash window, was a real bonus. The French have given this famous farceur the honour of calling him Le Feydeau Anglais. A much deserved accolade. Carry on farceing for many more years please, Ray.

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The EU referendum – at last

So after months of facile soundbites, misinformation and angry confrontations, we finally get to vote tomorrow on whether we should Remain in the European Union, or Leave.

I’ve been hugely disappointed at the tone set by both sides, and by the way they’ve managed their campaigns.

But not surprised.

Politicians just don’t get it, do they? We want facts, reasoned debate and mutual respect. Instead we get exaggeration, lies, rancour and vitriol.

If you don’t know the answer to a specific question or issue….just say I don’t know. Or we can’t be sure.

The Remain team’s trump card has been the assumed economic implications of leaving, the challenge of securing new trade deals, and the resulting impact on jobs and incomes.

An additional strength of the Remain argument is the potential destabilisation of Europe, should the UK leave. A Brexit could be the straw that breaks the Greek camel’s back…and the Italian’s and other southern EU members’, constrained by the rigidity of the EU and suffering systemic levels of high unemployment. But could the possible disintegration of EU federalism expose us to a repeat of historic conflicts…?

The Leave team’s trump cards are immigration, and control over our borders and sovereignty. But I got very bored during the course of last night’s Great Debate, orchestrated by the BBC. The Brexit team of Boris, Gisela and Andrea were programmed to repeat their mantra at the end of every segment: Vote Leave and Take Back Control. And there were a lot of segments.

Which side can say with any honesty how the country – and Europe – will evolve over the next 10, 20, 50 years, whether we vote Remain or Leave tomorrow?

On balance, I stand by what I wrote on this blog in January – before David Cameron returned with his non-existent deal.

I embrace everything about Europe…its people, languages, history, food, wine.

Everything.

Except the bloated, bureaucratic European project that is the EU. It’s teetering on the precipice of failure, and I’m leaning heavily towards the exit door.

I’m not racist. I’m not xenophobic. And I’m not rooted in the past. But I can’t believe the status quo is sustainable.

I love Europe. But I love its separate, beautiful, independent cultures rather than its homogeneous, bureaucratic mass.

I will be voting to Leave the EU tomorrow. Not without some trepidation about the immediate financial and economic turmoil. Not without some concerns about the longer term implications for all European countries, and their interaction. And not without an expectation that it might be more awkward to travel to our beloved Italy. Or France. Or any of the other EU member states.

But my vote will be cast in the knowledge that we will be able to have more control over how we spend our taxes on our own priorities. And in the expectation that over the longer term, having more control over our borders will allow us to eliminate the obvious risks of complete freedom of movement within EU member states, and to alleviate some of the pressures on our health system, our schools and housing demand.

But I completely respect, and understand, all those who will vote to Remain.

Only time will tell whether Remaining or Leaving the EU tomorrow is the right thing to do over the long-term.

Until the next Referendum, at least.

And the only thing I’ll miss now the campaigning is finally over is the frequent airing of that brilliant musical memory from 1982…when The Clash wondered whether they should stay or go, when I first went to Bermuda, and when we all hoped that being a part of a united Europe would undoubtedly be A Good Thing.

The English Mouse Squeaks

The dust has just about settled on the Great British General Election of 2015.

Ed is in Ibiza, reading up on his Marxist tracts, wondering where it all went so wrong. And avoiding gloating calls from his brother.

Nigel resigned as leader of UKIP,  ostensibly honouring his promise, but is now back – Lazarus-like – at the helm.

Nick resigned as leader of the Lib Dems after his party got a real kicking for “doing the right thing for the country” during the 5 year coalition.

Nicola rules the new UK political landscape from Scotland, with 56 out of 650 Westminster MPs.

David rolled up his sleeves, carried on with business and is already attacking the key challenge of Europe.

So the pollsters got it all wrong. Up until that bombshell Exit Poll at 10 pm on 7th May, they were all predicting that the Conservatives and Labour were neck and neck, a hung parliament a certainty and a coalition or alliance of Lefties cobbled together to form a majority the likely outcome.

The reality was oh so different. But was it really that surprising?

Alex Salmond – the ex SNP leader after the Scots voted NO in their independence vote, but now bizarrely a Westminster MP – claimed rightly that the Scottish lion has roared today.

But what happened south of the border was the English mouse squeaking. Very loudly. “Middle England” is usually a pejorative term, but millions of hard-working English voters came out in favour of a free market economy, lower taxes, a smaller state, saving more than you spend…and possibly the desire to vote separately for the UK’s position in Europe.

The left will call this the middle class mouse, but that’s where Ed and his Labour cronies were mistaken. The country is no longer defined by lower, middle and upper classes.

Ed used lazy, outdated rhetoric and repetitive sound bites from a bygone age: posh Tories; bankers’ bonuses; I’m here for working families. But people voted against the risk of a Labour-led government repeating the economic mistakes they made under Gordon Brown. And more importantly, perhaps they rejected the socialist ideology of a larger state machine, funded by higher taxes and supporting a bloated welfare state. Just look at France under Monsieur Hollande…….

I wrote here back in April, in an article on the new pension freedoms:

In broader terms, this is a metaphor for capitalism v socialism. The political right want to decrease taxation – personal, to maximise the disposable income in your pocket each month, so that you can decide where best to spend it; corporate, to encourage businesses to invest in people and physical assets. And yes, to make a profit, which should NOT be a dirty word.

The political left believe in increasing taxation to maximise taxes because they want to spend more on public services. Because they know better than us what we need. The Nanny State.

I know which philosophy I prefer. Capitalism – with a social conscience, of course. Socialism doesn’t work, in economic terms. It scares away the wealth creators, discourages inward investment and inevitably causes a downward economic spiral.

The English mouse squeaked in favour of working hard, saving for your family, creating personal wealth, starting up companies, paying sensible taxes and, yes, balancing the books. And being incentivised to go out and work, rather than sit at home on the sofa enjoying a benefits lifestyle.

This new Conservative government now has a real opportunity to do the right thing for the long-term: encourage enterprise, stimulate further employment and economic growth and – more importantly – rebalance public services and the welfare state so that taxes are used to help those that need it most, rather than those who choose not to help themselves when they are able.

The Beveridge Report of 1942 formed the basis of the modern welfare system. It was designed to address the 5 “Giant Evils” of society at that time: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease.  Our welfare system of the 21st century should reinforce those principles, rather than the broader, more lax ones it has come to stand for in the intervening 70 years, abused by many undeserving of its worthy intent.

If the current government can deliver, we just might end up with a group of politicians who are conservatives with a social conscience, no longer the Nasty Party, and who create a country for the many rather than for the perceived elite few.

Sort out the marauding Scots and our EU position too, and there will be no surprises at the next General Election.

But mess it up, and David, George, Theresa or Boris might also be off on holiday to Ibiza in May 2020.

I wonder if Ed will still be on the sun lounger….