It’s a fine line to tread, as a playwright (or script writer generally), between penning a drama with a message and writing a polemic with ciphers and tropes galore.
David Hare is, in my experience, a skilled craftperson who has often achieved the former in his work. This time, well, not so much.
Pauline Gibson may or may not be running for something. It’s denied – not that we know what – right at the outset. And before we find out any more we are plunged back into her past, her failed relationship with Jack at University – he wants more, something deeper, she doesn’t – and we move forward to discover what it is she is not running for or from.
We learn about her destructive relationship with her mother (yawn) and her violent father (sigh) and her naive optimism as a doctor wanting to do her best (zzzzzz). And still we wait for the big reveal. What isn’t she running for/from. And is she, in fact, not not running?
She has this weirdy relationship with Jack; weirdy in the sense that Jack isn’t so much a failed lover as chiselled debating buddy who she can use to juxtapose Hare’s clunky political points. At the end there’s this scene at a funeral where they swap ideas, more ideals, about single issue politics against the messy compromises of the real politik class, gender politics, and how the focus can be more on process than doing the right thing or even winning votes. It’s not really very believable (goodness knows why, by then, she still bothers with the boring and self absorbed Jack) and it has very little to do with moving the plot forward.
See underneath this is Hare’s disappointment with the Labour Party. It’s like he hates the compromising Blairites as much as Momentum’s Singularity where the moral high ground has been reduced to a pinnacle of didactic fundamentalism rather than a plateau of various shades and if you are not exactly ‘on point’ then you are the enemy.
And his answer is trite. More women. Of course we need more women in politics but really, is the answer merely embedded in gender? And is this the place where it is best discussed?
So the story that we start with – saving a hospital in Corby – drifts off into, not so much talking as declaiming heads. Hare tries to inject a story on top of his creation in the guise of Pauline and Jack and whether really isn’t it all about sex and love and stuff. But really that’s just to pad this thing out to two hours forty (and time for a pee and and an ice cream after the first hour and ten).
If you want to get the point(s0, just read any version of the commentariat in the Guardian since Corbyn ascended to be the Virtuous Vegan at top the moist heap of polished moralising that is today’s Labour elite. It’d be quicker, better explained and the ice creams won’t be over priced. As for this? Well, if you must, wait for it to go to Netflix and you have to stay in for the gasman.
And did she run? And for what? Sod it, go if you care. At least I haven’t spoilt such plot as there is. It’s in the reviews anyway. Maybe that’ll teach me to read them first.