Playing With Fire
Opened 21 Sep 2005
Written: by David Edgar
Directed: Michael Attenborough
Producer: National Theatre
Cast: Oliver Ford Davies, Emma Fielding, Kate Best, David Troughton
Synopsis: When the District Council of Wyverdale fails to satisfy a government audit, New Labour high-flyer Alex is sent north from London to formulate a robust recovery plan. But websites, faith festivals and council leaflets in Bengali seem beside the point to the Labour old guard, struggling to provide the basics to an alienated and divided electorate. What begins as a metro-versus-retro comedy of misunderstanding soon becomes a chilling drama about multicultural Britain. Populist politicians play the race card, racial tensions grow and good intentions have fatal consequences.
What the popular press had to say:
NICK CURTIS for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "David Edgar's new play is an uncannily timely but thorny work that takes some struggling through." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "While I admire Edgar's desire to explore big issues on public stages and to instruct delightfully, I can't help feeling his new play offers somewhat tendentious explanations for the failure of multi-cultural policies...In short, Edgar's play doesn't quite add up and overlooks the many other sources of racial tension in Britain. But at least it occupies the Olivier stage with a certain bravura in Michael Attenborough's production." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "What [David Edgar] hasn't been able to achieve is a satisfying drama. He hits all the right topical buttons, but for long arid stretches the play resolutely refuses to come to life...There are ideas in abundance, so much clever talk...But of real human drama, and characters you genuinely come to care for, there is little evidence." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Intelligent, balanced and fair...A 23-person cast that includes Oliver Ford Davies as an educated demagogue and David Troughton as the council’s genially floundering leader, is as committed as any cast could be. They left me stimulated and impressed. But excited? Not quite." KATE BASSETT for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Hardly sparks into life at all...hasn't successfully digested and transformed all his material into an engaging drama...this is a peculiarly arid, grey and sprawling piece with too many wooden exchanges and repetitive sections that patently need redrafting. "