The democratic process at work is the basis for a new farce by James Graham

The democratic process at work is the basis for a new farce by James Graham

Tanitch at the theatre LogoRobert Tanitch reviews The Vote at Donmar Theatre whilst at home

James Graham’s play, written for stage and television and directed by Josie Rourke, was broadcast live on the More 4 Channel on 7 May, the 2015 Election Day.

It was played out in real time to coincide with the last 90 minutes before the polling stations closed.  A huge cast, full of well-known names, participated.

Mark Gatiss. Photo by Johan Persson (2)The Vote is a much more trivial than Graham’s The House, which had such a success at the National Theatre and made his name

The setting is a polling station in a primary school gym in a marginal constituency. Every vote counts.

Mark Gattis is the harassed returning officer heading for chaos and a breakdown. Katherine Tate and Nina Sosanya are his bungling clerks. These three actors hold a fragile play together.

Timothy West is cast as an old man, no longer quite with it, who manages to vote twice.

The desperate efforts of one of the clerks (Katherine Tate) to rectify the error and balance the vote by ringing up members of her family to come in and vote according to her wishes lead to some amusing farce.

Catherine Tate and Timothy West. Photo by Johan PerssonThe cast includes Hadley Fraser as a drunk who wanders off into the street with his ballot paper and then comes back to find he can’t vote.

Judi Dench and Flinty Williams (mum and daughter in real life) play a quarrelling mum and daughter who find they have only one vote between them.

Chukwudi Iwuji is a black Conservative candidate and he has a rare and unexpected moment of seriousness.

Bill Paterson. Photo by Johan PerssonThe major comic performance is by Paul Chahidi as an Independent candidate who is obsessed with a one-way traffic system.

“One Way? No Way!” he cries, furious that the ballot paper has got the question mark and exclamation mark the wrong way round.

The Vote is a light-hearted piece for a special occasion; and, as a one-off farce for a special occasion, it’s fine, if you are not too critical.

But for a longer shelf life, it would need considerable reworking. The ingredients are there.

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