It would be easy enough for audiences (and critics) to divide along party political lines while watching Hope, though I'd imagine that most of the Royal Court's liberal theatregoing constituency would be very much on the side of the unnamed Labour Council portrayed, trying to make massive savings on their local government budget. They are under orders from central government to make a saving of some £64million by 2017 and the play revolves around what can be cut first to make up this year's £22m tranch.
But as much as the minutiae of local politics exerts a grim sort of fascination, Jack Thorne's fictional landscape here is personalised in an unconvincing parade of characters in various shades of idealism and pragmatism that undermine interest.
The play is unquestionably worthy, but fatally lacks much of a dramatic motor. Director John Tiffany seems to be aware of this as from time to time he has his cast transcend the realistic bounds of the play to float into physical movement.
A strong company of actors do their admirable best with the material, but it is sadly another dud for the Royal Court.
"Hope does brilliantly show up both the vacillating, bow-to-pressure toothlessness of the current left, and the weighed-down weariness of good people struggling to make the smallest change. If the play isn’t more galvanising, perhaps it’s because that’s the impossible task. All it may do is reflect the muddied mess we’re in. And try to hold on to a little hope."
Holly Williams for The Independent
"Jack Thorne's austerity drama is urgent, edgy and inspiring. This play about local authority cuts could not be more timely – and it entertains even as it offers a call to arms."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"John Tiffany’s poised, understated production features appealing work from Tom Georgeson as a relic of Old Labour, Rudi Dharmalingam as a sardonic council worker, and Jo Eastwood as the face of the cuts’ social cost."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard