Sunday 8 December 2013

The Upstanding Member @ The Old Red Lion Theatre

As an alternative Christmas show, The Upstanding Member is a very timely production.  Yet more so, this modern farce is poignant for its political themes - politicians and lawyers are as corrupt as in reality, yet it's the journalist who remains the common enemy.

Writer Gregory Skulnick has cleverly kept the MP at the centre of the drama nameless, not only due to his super injunction but as representative of any number of politicians.  Yet is he the upstanding member he claims to be?  Two robbers posing as lawyers know otherwise and on this Christmas Eve, 'the man' can expect any number of visitors...

This is a farce that frequently verges into satire, with a complex and layered narrative full of red herrings and double bluffing to keep the audience guessing throughout.  Although it gets off to a slow start, the tension and the pace soon ramp up as the screw turns and then unravels layer by layer in a satisfying denouement.  It quickly starts to feel out of control, but director Hamish MacDougall has ensured that the production runs like a perfect machine, in particular with the use of props and the cast's movement around the minimal yet well-dressed stage.

Importantly, The Upstanding Member is very funny.  Skulnick's script is as witty as it is bitingly satirical, filled with puns and innuendo (as you might expect from the title), all spoken in suitably clipped fashion by the strong cast.  Tim Dewberry and Izaak Cainer make for a hilarious double act as robbers Alistair and Danny, whose clever improvising gives the plot its momentum.  Stephen Omer's MP is suitably slimy, but ultimately easily manipulated (by his wife in particular), whilst Ed Sheridan's bumbling Mr Graver is naively caught up in the proceedings.  As a whole the cast are naturally amusing without resorting to cartoonish acting, adding a sense of believability that enhances the underlying themes.

The Upstanding Member is the first production from Rival Theatre: a polished, cutting and consistently funny political romp.  Let's hope there's plenty more where that came from.


Watch: The Upstanding Member runs until the 4th January at the Old Red Lion Theatre.