As a fan of political dramas, those packed with intrigue, deceit, betrayal and ruthless ambition I have watched them all, the hard bitten and the comedic, the UK originals and the US remakes and originals, they make fascinating and compelling viewing. And in these days of revelations from inside the seats of power they are less fiction and far more a reflection of reality. But sometimes I sit there and think – “get on with it!” Yes, do we really need all the back stories and subplots, thirteen episodes from a US drama, six perhaps in the UK…
Farragut North has all the elements that I love, brilliantly drawn characters, most of them flawed and ruthless bar one perhaps, maybe two. Driven and ambitious they grease the wheels of their lives, the secrets and lies behind their machinations with only one purpose and that purpose is self.
Yet again New Venture Theatre have taken on an ambitious work, this time by Beau Willimon, and yet again they have pulled it off with a powerful production and a superb cast and focused direction. After his triumph in The York Realist Will Mytum returns with another superb and very different performance. Here he plays Stephen Bellamy a prodigy, a young man who has attained prominence in the political arena of American campaigning by the age of 25. And with that prominence comes a level of arrogance that is masked by a level of charm, a charm that slips away as his career becomes embroiled in a political intrigue of his own.
He works for candidate Paul Zara played beautifully by Mark Lester. Zara is the kind of politician who likes to be seen as a “man of the people”, of course it’s a front for fierce ambition and the desire for power. Ida Horowitz is the hard nosed journalist, prepared to do anything to get that scoop, and at whatever cost. Bridgett Ane Lawrence pulls it off with style, friendship masking a fierce ruthlessness. Ben is the youngster in the team, put upon and ignored by the others and seemingly downtrodden, and Alec Watson captures that sense of naivety so well at the start of the story, but only at the start.
Molly enters the story as the intern with a history, equally driven as the rest but using her feminine charms and wiles to get what she wants – or is she? Melissa Paris has that balance of honour and sexual power just right.
Jim Calderwood’s portrayal of the opposition’s Tom Duffy is exceptional, that sense of experience, that mood of the inevitability of things and display of caring little for the collateral damage of his actions is beautifully and chillingly real. This is a dark and dangerous character played with disarming reality, unlike so many film and TV renderings of the like where the tendency is to veer towards archetypal and demonic clichés.
Steven O’Shea’s direction is sharp and uncluttered and as a consequence the whole moves at a captivating pace that has the audience silently gripped from start to finish.
If I had one reservation it would be with the set, the mechanics of which, the transitions etc, work well, but the visual execution of the whole lets down an otherwise stunning production.
21 January 2023
New Venture Theatre