Michael McManus attempts to deal with the thorny issues of Brexit and whether it is possible to stay honourable in the world of politics – but can come across as repetitive.
Given the level of cynicism towards British politics and politicians in general, it is easy to forget that these politicians are actually humans as well battling against what they personally want against what is best for the country as a whole – or trying to anyway. Michael McManus with An Honourable Man attempts to paint a picture of one politician’s attempt to do the ‘right thing’ and stay true to his principles which in fact means he is caught in a situation that gets out of control.
Politician Joe Newman has recently been ousted from his constituency and lost his seat – but somehow won the by-election. Now with donations flooding in to his cause and more people turning to him – could he really become the next Prime Minister? But with questions about Brexit and how to appease people from all backgrounds in society being raised and confronted, Joe finds his beliefs challenged in every way.
Witty and entertaining, Michael McManus has created a play that exposes a lot of the pitfalls of politics in this country particularly with regards to Brexit. But it doesn’t come at it from a new angle, with a tendency to come across as repetitive in places, particularly when Sam and Anne urge Joe to come up with a strong message which sees them all reiterating the same arguments that they have previously used elsewhere. In this sense it feels very frustrating to watch, despite the utter conviction in which it is all delivered in this confident production directed by Jolley Gosnold and the utter conviction of the performances.
It has a tendency to feel slightly messy too, with the scene in which Sam thinks that Joe has invited him over for a personal reason just seeming like an unnecessary addition that doesn’t add anything to the overall story. However, despite this the humour in the play is sharp and perceptive, keeping the play light but engaging.
Gosnold’s production cleverly highlights the fine balance that Joe has to maintain throughout the election campaign, helped by various news reports shown on screen to give additional depth to the increasing pressure that Joe feels. But it is a production that also reveals that perhaps the play has attempted to put too many ideas in that can make it overwhelming – as the final scene in the first act proves in the discussion about all the areas that need to be included in their new party manifesto. It is a fast and furious moment that could have been expanded on as it is a key moment in the show, but instead it feels almost brushed aside.
However, there are some solid performances to be enjoyed. Max Keeble as the ambitious Sam has plenty of conviction and passion in his performance to be utterly convincing, while Dee Sadler as the loyal and straight talking Liz is great support for Timothy Harker’s sensible and principled Joe Newman. Together, they all convince in bringing the tangled world of politics to life.
Overall, An Honourable Man is entertaining and witty – but the ideas it expresses are nothing that perhaps audiences haven’t heard before and need to be developed further to offer more clarity and insight into topics such as Brexit. Solid attempt but needs something extra to make it stand out more.
By Emma Clarendon
An Honourable Man continues to play at the White Bear Theatre until the 8th December. For more information visit: https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/WhatsOn/An-Honourable-Man