Sometimes, being an American abroad can be an unpleasant experience. Sitting through a 2.5 hour play about how the US government is an evil force out solely to protect its own interest generally tends to be one of them.
Such is the thrust of Andrew Cartmel’s (Dr Who, Torchwood) new play Under the Eagle. It opens as Vi, a vicious political comedienne (Francesca Anderson), is arrested onstage in the middle of a piece about the Prime Minister being a gutless whore subservient to the Americans, only to have been invited to a weekend retreat by the PM’s American wife Tamina (Claire Louise Amias). Matters quickly escalate when it’s revealed that Tamina’s not just looking for a celeb to pal around with, but wants Vi present as a reminder to her husband that the British public are sick of cowtowing to American demands. See, it turns out that the American president, Lenore Rose Locke (Angela Dixon failing at accents) is in Britain to supervise the handover of a suspected terrorist: a suspected terrorist who’s a British citizen and possibly not guilty of any actual terrorism. It’s up to the Prime Minister (David Morley Hale) to stand for what’s right as sex and politics fly while Vi gets it on with the deputy PM, much to the frustrations of LRL’s manipulatively motivated Chief of Staff (Eben Young, an actual American).
Fortunately, Cartmel has actually stood and delivered a tight piece of political theatre despite some padded dialogue. Both sides are equally sleazy, from the British use of passive-aggressive interference to LRL’s part-George W Bush part-Hillary Clinton mixture of evangelical ruthlessness. And while the surprise twist in the second act is worthy, the ending is unsurprising and confirms what everybody knows all along: in the end you make compromises and sacrifices no matter how unpopular they may be.
Where: White Bear Theatre
How Much: £12 General Admission
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £12. Well written and entertaining without sacrificing intellect. It’s uncomfortable at times but not to the point of being painful.
RZ Other Notes: Seating at the White Bear is L-Shaped. Arrive early to get onto one of the two long benches. The funniest line in the play involves LRL walking in on the Prime Minister who is in the process of being seduced by Tamina. After a fight ensues LRL asks the PM to pray with her. He stutters out a refusal to which LRL replies “You don’t want to pray with me?” “No. I want to have wild, deviant sex with my wife!” Hence the reason there will always be a Britain.