Mayday! – Accidental Theatre – Review
by Cathy Brown
30/31st May, 2019 at Accidental Theatre
If it was possible to have any sympathy for Theresa May last week, spare a thought for playwright Rosemary Jenkinson, whose new show Mayday! was superseded by that surprise resignation. One of the perils of presenting up-to-the-minute satire on the political news of the day means being able to roll with the unexpected, but then Jenkinson has had great experience in doing just that.
Stepping in to the space left by her ‘Michelle & Arlene’ series, Rosemary Jenkinson’s latest installment of brash, topical farce turns her attention to another female politician – Theresa May, who would prefer to be known as the second female Prime Minister of Great Britain, rather than the Maybot Dancing Queen.
Following a sparky opening montage of Theresa’s resignation speech, sound tracked by the classic weepy hit ‘All By Myself’, we find ourselves in Theresa’s office, where she is musing on her premiership, complaining about Dim Dave, Bo-Jo and the ‘Euro-Septics’ and writing that very speech. She is quite literally all by herself, with no company save for a bottle of whiskey, a telephone and a cardboard cut out of her arch nemesis Jeremy Corbyn.
Jo Donnelly bears little physical resemblance to May, but plays the role with gusto – all piercing eyes, pursed lips and leopard print heels. Those robotic dance moves even make an appearance. The fact that she appears to be reading from the script – cleverly disguised as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – can be distracting, but is clearly a result of last minute rewrites to keep the show fresh and up-to-date. As she takes calls from her beloved husband, her loyal advisors and has an amusing chat with Karen Bradley, she takes out her frustrations on Jeremy, who answers her back at every turn.
Despite being solidly directed by Richard Laverty, the production lacks the spirit of fun that so infused the Michelle & Arlene series. This could be down to the character of Theresa May herself, who is something of a void in the personality stakes. There are clear attempts here to humanise her – references to her diabetes and her inability to have children – but considering that fact has trumped fiction, the stakes don’t feel high enough.
The lack of a foil for Donnelly to play off also leaves the show flatter than it could be and had the talking cardboard cut out of Corbyn been brought to life by an actual actor, then an opportunity for a tighter plot and more humour could have been realised.
As a rapid response to our rolling news culture, these short sharp productions are a breath of fresh theatrical air. However, given May’s resignation and the speed at which the political landscape is changing, it is unlikely that Rosemary Jenkinson will revive her hard-drinking, hard-bitten PM. It’s a shame as it would have been interesting to see where she and Donnelly could have taken their creation.
Undoubtedly, the shifting political landscape will soon provide ripe inspiration for Jenkinson’s sharp eye and sharper wit and it will be fun to see who she decides to lampoon next. let’s face it – like the Tory Party leadership contest, she has no shortage of candidates!