Robert Tanitch reviews Joe Penhall’s The Constituent at The Old Vic, London

Robert Tanitch reviews Joe Penhall’s The Constituent at The Old Vic, London

MPs have been intimidated, abused and even murdered by volatile constituents. Their personal safety is in such danger nowadays, that they have to wear stab vests. The daily stress on them and their families is intolerable.

With the general election only days away, Joe Penhall’s political drama could not be timelier.

James Cordon, who made his name in The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors, returns to the London stage for the first time in 12 years in an unexpectedly serious role, showing he has a much wider acting range than might be thought. He is very good.

Cordon is cast as an obsessive, aggressive ex-Afghan serviceman, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and in the middle of a messy divorce case. He turns to his MP, thinking she can solve all his problems; and when she does not, he becomes dangerous.

Anna Maxwell Martin is good casting for the hard-working Opposition backbencher, who, full of empathy for the man, advocates he should be treated with mercy and compassion and not punished. This results in fearful consequences for herself.

There is a third character, a parliamentary protection officer, played by Zachary Hart, whose bad cop behaviour feels totally gratis and not real.

Matthew Warchus directs the actors on a narrow traverse stage, 90-minutes, straight through without an interval. The scenes are short. The blackouts and the waits between them, played out to very loud music, are far too long.

I went to the theatre, hoping to see something comparable to Joe Penhall’s excellent drama, Blue/Orange, and came out of the theatre disappointed, feeling I had watched a debate, a documentary, at best a so-so television play with an unconvincing ending.

To learn more about Robert Tanitch and his reviews, click here to go to his websiteRobert Tanitch Logo