I remember hearing Tony Benn speak many years ago, when I was still in school. I had heard quite a few politicians speak and whilst I listened to them all with interest and respect, Benn was the first to make a real impression. I had never heard anyone talk about political issues with such raw passion and conviction. Whatever you think about Benn’s radical socialist politics, there’s no denying that he was an incredibly important figure in British politics right up until his death last year.
A convincing and compelling performer, Bretherton does Benn justice and holds our attention for the full 75 minutes.
Benn was a prolific diarist and often taped his diary entries, many of which he made public. As such, the decision to draw a parallel with Beckett’s classic Krapp’s Last Tape makes sense. There is a poignancy in depicting Benn looking back over his life and his part in the changing political landscape of the UK, both in regards to Benn’s life and to the history of our country.
Philip Bretherton gives an excellent performance as Benn. While he doesn’t quite capture the brilliance of Benn himself – but who could? – he delivers a very successful representation of him and not an embarrassing impersonation. A convincing and compelling performer, Bretherton does Benn justice and holds our attention for the full 75 minutes.
The set is effective. It immediately brings to mind Beckett’s play but with Benn’s touches, such as his books on the shelves. The script is witty, informative and meaty although I did feel like it could have been trimmed down just a little. If it had been cut down to an hour, it would have been more succinct and powerful.
This is a play that will appeal most strongly to audiences with an interest in UK politics and particularly those who have an existing knowledge of Tony Benn. It is a wonderful tribute to a fascinating and important figure.