Words by: Gabby Willis
As the house lights went down for David Hare’s ‘The Absence of War’, I was not quite sure of what to expect from a play about a field in which I am admittedly quite clueless, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I can only explain as a tour de force of a political drama, with an ever-developing plot. Not once did David Hare’s writing leave me feeling out of place as an audience member lost amongst political and economic jargon, but instead I felt that with this specific knowledge I was able to get a real feel for the characters of this fictional Labour opposition office.
Written in 1992, after Hare himself witnessed the cut-throat private proceedings of that year’s general election, it is evident that as much insight and research has gone into all areas of this most recent production as its original conception over a decade ago. The plot focusses on a three week election campaign lead by fictional leader of the labour party, Sheffield born George Jones, in a race for power against the current conservative government in a political crisis, and a race against his own charisma and troubles with the media. Surrounded by his unelected team, each one of them with their different views and agendas for his political career and persona, George is often conflicted and trapped within the man he has become, as politics becomes more about image than ideas. This is a play not to be missed by fans of ‘The West Wing’, ‘The Thick of It’, or ‘House of Cards’, as it can certainly compete on their level, and should earn its place amongst the greatest political productions of late.
Acclaimed director, Jeremy Herrin, has left no detail untouched; set changes were smooth and just as dramatic as dialogue, the use of Ceefax on TVs around the stage and live filmed footage of interviews was refreshingly original, the chemistry and talent of the company, in their conversations as well as their off-sides, was impeccable.
Most notable for myself was the performance of Cyril Nri in the role of Oliver Dix, the political advisor to leader of the labour opposition, played by Reece Dinsdale. Nri is currently best known for his role as Lance, in channel 4’s ‘Cucumber’, and as a fan of the show I can now profess a new found respect for him as an extremely talented and versatile artist. Nri’s facial expressions and mannerisms never seemed fake, and the feeling he conveyed was so real that I often found myself lost in admiration for his acting instead of lost in the spectacularly witty and raw plot.
With a nail biting general election coming this may, and this perhaps being the first time many of us can vote, ‘The Absence of War’ is a perfect introduction to the world of politics to get you buzzing about party policy and the tension involved in running a government.
‘The Absence of War’ runs until 21st February at the Crucible Theatre before touring around the country to a further ten locations. Tickets can be purchased from the Sheffield Theatre’s Box Office in person, by phone, or online, and prices range from £12 – £23 with a transaction fee of £1.50.
Featured image credit: Sheffield Theatres