A Beginner’s Guide to Populism (rating 4/5)
Think Trump. Think walls. That should provide an essential understanding of how this 50-minute production seeks to explore the nastier aspects of trying to ride on a popular ticket when it all goes unchecked.
The fear of being invaded, whether violent, political or economic has a long history, harking back to the castles and city walls of ancient times, right through to Berlin and Belfast. They’re designed, of course, to keep people out. Or do they keep them in? Whatever their motive they are created by those who detect danger and seek self-preservation.
Writer Andy Moseley’s play relocates this fear and alarm to an absurd level, focusing on the inhabitants of a British (middle England?) village, Little Middleton, where tensions are mounting over a plan to turn the parish into a giant new garden city.
To save Little Middleton being over-run by an invasion of unsympathetic townies a new political movement is formed around the gullible new parliamentary candidate Antonia Morgan (Isabel Palmstierna) who is manipulated by the scheming activist Jeremy Taylor (Will Underwood). As minor concerns turn into widespread civil chaos, they face the growing and menacing challenge of a new and more commanding leader, Brian Barber (Chris Townsend).
With its talk of walls and moats, and cynical views of news reports there are clear references to Trump, fake news and the Brexit campaign. While the plot is clearly a dark and exaggerated comedy, it does point to how susceptible the public can be to those who first use their charm to secure power and then turn to more sinister means to impose and maintain it.
The performance is suitably manic, if at times a little too shouty and chaotic, but it thrives on a sense of panic assisted by subtle sound effects. The plot will certainly give audiences something to think about.
The SpaceTriplex, Hill Place, until 25 August