“Everyone loves you. Become a party politician and everyone will hate you”

A review of I’m Not Running

Considering the current political climate of the past few weeks (or months? Years?), it seems strange to go to a theatre to indulge in political drama. However, David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running, provides entertainment value by lifting you out of the present omnishambles and creating a lively storyline that belongs to simpler times.

Whilst the narrative is set in the present day, the action unfolds in a parallel universe without Brexit or Corbyn. Pauline Gibson (Siân Brooke) is a junior doctor at Corby Hospital when she finds out the hospital will be closed due to the government’s new ‘efficiency’ measures. After stepping up to lead a local campaign to save the hospital, she is elected as an independent MP. Her pragmatic approach to politics quickly gains national attention, leading to rampant speculation that she will run for leadership of the Labour Party.

The dialogue runs fluently, mainly comprised of punchy scenes with high emotional impact between two to three characters. There are plenty of zingy lines to great comedic effect; however, the disrupted chronology, with frequent flashbacks speculating about Pauline’s relationship with her mother and her university boyfriend sometimes makes for a jarring storyline. The audience is led to speculate Pauline’s motives throughout the play, whether her moves are calculated towards an endgame or genuine. Despite the political irrelevance to the present day, there is a good characterisation of the longstanding clash between new and old factions of the Labour Party and questioning the prioritisation of votes over traditions. There are other tantalising questions thrown up, about the significance of the prospect of a female Labour leader and how female politicians are held to greater scrutiny, but without any solid conclusions.

Siân Brooke commands the stage well, the most entertaining scenes consisting of her sparring with her ex-boyfriend Jack (Alex Hassell), the son of a Labour historian and contender for leadership, reminiscent of Ed Miliband but nastier and with more gut. Her personal and academic detachment from the traditions of the Labour Party gives her the most rational voice throughout the play, despite employing Sandy (Joshua McGuire), a former Labour spin doctor as her right-hand man.

It’s certainly an interesting dissection of internal Labour politics, but at times the attempts to provide the characters with convoluted emotional depth results in a mismatched storyline. However, if you fancy an evening reliving the equally problematic political climate of 2000-  to 2015 but without hearing the word “Brexit”, I’m Not Running is an appealing choice.

Pro tip: 16-25 year olds can sign for the National Theatre’s ‘Entry Pass’ to get seats for £7.50


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