Pros: Creative use of interactive, text-based voting gives the performance a unique edge.
Cons: A 45-minute performance was never going to be long enough to develop a fascinating premise.
Upon arrival at Theatre Delicatessen, I wondered if I could stomach a spoof political debate after six weeks of repetitive electioneering. However, The Candidate proved to be a welcome antidote to the bland posturing of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.
The ‘electorate’ gathered in a small installation room, where Mattie, posing as a TV host introduced five candidates vying for our support; Omar One (comfortable nostalgia); Omar Two (optimistic contentment); Omar Three (hard-pressed anxiety); Omar Four (long term despair) and Omar Five (cosmopolitan critic). Unsurprisingly, the five Omars are all the same guy, rather neatly summing up Rule No: 1 of British politics: all politicians look and sound the same and use the same tailor. The electorate were then asked to vote for their preferred candidate via a text-based facility which projected results onto a screen. Once selected, our candidate proceeded to address the electorate, pressing the flesh and taking questions. Rule No: 2 of British politics soon raced into view; politicians never answer a question, they make speeches instead. The electorate were periodically asked to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to specific questions, creating an instant, evolving approval rating for Omar. Mattie, formerly cuddly TV host, then turns into Matthew, aggressive foul-mouthed spin doctor in the vein of Malcolm Tucker. As we hoped, Matthew wasted no time in pointing out Omar’s shortcomings. All of which brings us on, rather neatly to Rule No: 3 of British politics; politicians assume spin doctors will do all the thinking for them. In the final 10 minutes of the performance, Omar abandoned the evasive, stage-managed routine favoured by so many politicians; and opted to talk directly with the electorate; his approval rating soon began to improve. So now we have Rule No: 4 of British politics; only by talking to the people can a politician hope to make an impression.
Overall, The Candidate was a highly likeable, energetic performance which reminded us how uninspiring British politics has become. Moreover, the obsession with style over substance, on-message clichés over plain talking, has left the electorate consumed by apathy. There were no great revelations here, but it was a well-constructed piece that was both scripted and improvised, which is no mean feat, bearing in mind the reactions of the electorate are unknown until the show starts. Omar Ibrahim and Matthew Flacks deserve huge credit for such a performance that was largely seamless and spontaneous.
Performed by: Omar Ibrahim and Matthew Flacks
Directed by: Joseph Thorpe and Natalie Scott
Produced by: The Lab Collective
Box Office: 020 7278 7694
Booking link: http://theatredelicatessen.co.uk/js_events/the-candidate/
Booking until: 16 May 2015