Things Can Only Get Bitter

Act One’s Things Can Only Get Bitter takes its name (with a slight twist) from the now infamous campaign song used by New Labour in the 1997 election campaign. As one might expect from this title, the play begins with political backbiting. In this 50-minute show, the staff and associates of mentally unstable MP Stephanie Glendenning spend their time conniving, moralising and manoeuvring their way into positions that will best serve their careers. Meanwhile, Stephanie's mental health falls by the wayside or is openly exploited.

Stuffed with dirty tricks, double-crosses and explores some interesting ground, but like most outgoing governments, it feels like it needs just a little more time.

Some strong performances from the cast allow this production to explore how basic human desires for success, stability and influence almost inevitably create the kind of cynical, self-serving politics with which we are so familiar. In particular, through Emily Broad's understated and subtle portrayal of Michelle Middlemore - Stephanie's campaign manager - we experience the frustration of someone who simply wants to be successful. Meanwhile Alex Gatherer's Victor Cavendish serves us well as the character through whom we examine the crushing paradox created by trying to reconcile friendship with political ambition. The characters Samuel Arnold-Forster and Lily Llewellyn make up the more familiar examples of the archetypal political classes - ruthless, sly and utterly self-motivated.

More a political drama than a satire, the script is at times guilty of being too helpful, tube-feeding us already clear character motivations, but it generally succeeds in creating these characters with speed and clarity, allowing a great deal of action to take place.

That speed, however, is the sticking point. While the play commendably launches straight into the thick of its subject matter, it thereafter feels like it is hurtling along at such a breakneck speed that genuine dramatic and funny moments are lost or have minimal impact. Voices are raised, tables are struck, but amid the pace and tension it becomes difficult to absorb the material being explored. Jokes that could break this relentless movement are mistimed, leaving us unsure of time or place until the script blatantly states either.

Essentially though, if political drama floats your boat then this just might be the play for you. It's stuffed with dirty tricks, double-crosses and explores some interesting ground, but like most outgoing governments, it feels like it needs just a little more time. 

Reviews by Andrew Forbes

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The Blurb

Betrayal and intrigue abound in this brand new political drama. Set in the run-up to a general election, loyalty and ambition lock horns in a constituency office. A backbench MP loses it and those around her exploit her weakness. Up to the minute writing from Cardiff University’s Act One is a must see!

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