The play, about the “behind the scenes” goings on at an annual political party conference, is a marvellously insightful production, proving once again that fact is more extraordinary than fiction. The play, set in various locations within the party’s conference hotel, opens with Eddie (Henry Goodman), the seedy prime ministerial press secretary and the young speech-writing aide Paul (Peter Capaldi) trying to finalise the PM’s conference speech. (The PM is known as DL – Divine Light, Dreadfully Lightweight, Desperate Loser – take your pick depending on your view). Eddie is everything that, under the current Government, we have come to expect from someone in his position. An unelected control freak, paid to manipulate the news and ensure that the “right” story is relayed by the media, liberally employing blackmail wherever necessary to make sure party members and journalists alike remain “on message”. His skills of media control and manipulation are to be tested to the full by the revelations that George (Nigel Planer), a close friend of the PM and a dim-witted peer, slowly releases about the GM crop trials that have secretly taken place on his estate, and the subsequent consequences of the inadvertent entry of the GM hops into the food-chain. As Eddie tries to suppress the repercussions of this potential bombshell, demonstrators become ever more violent outside the hotel as the piece moves towards its climax. The arrival of Eddie’s ex-wife, Liz (Sian Thomas) an investigative journalist who appears to have got wind of the GM disaster on George’s estate, confronts him with the most damaging potential leak, that needs to be silenced through what ever means it takes. Did Eddie really go as far as murder in order to protect his leader? It is up to you to decide, but given the evangelical approach he takes to his job, it would hardly be surprising, would it?
The performances in Max Stafford Clark’s production are strong, especially from Goodman who has developed a wonderfully schizophrenic character for this part, swinging from incandescent rage, to “Yoga” calm, and Planer, whose blundering idiocy is the cause of all the problems.
Even if we were not on the verge of a General Election in this country, Feelgood would still be a marvellous crystallisation of everything that is farcical yet sinister about the current Tony Blair government. Feelgood reveals the current Government as the manipulative, superficial, deceitful and self-obsessed bunch they are – I hope Alastair Campbell has taken note. Attendance by cabinet members (at the very least) should be compulsory.
A round up of the press notices ....
BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “Alistair Beaton rediscovers and restores the lost art of political satire in this hilariously timely portrait of new Labour fibbing and deceiving.” NICHOLAS DE JONGE for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “Political satire was joyfully restored to the stage last night, when a Prime Minister, his methods and his Downing Street spokesman, were held up to ridicule and mockery. “ He goes on to say, “A satirical treat to savour.”