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If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, Royal Court

Anders Lustgarten 
Directed by Simon Godwin  

Pros: The cast are excellent and the lack of set and back stage area is an interesting way to present a drama set in times of ‘austerity’.

Cons: There are too many ideas, presented too quickly and too piecemeal. Some of the characters and situations presented are clichéd and the humour just doesn’t happen.

Our Verdict: This quality production will appeal to those who have an understanding and interest in politics and economics. It is interesting but if you are looking for a relaxed and entertaining evening, this is not the play to see.

Courtesy of The Royal Court

Anders Lustgarten is a political activist and this underpins the themes and content of this play. It is difficult to write about the plot as it is more of an idea than a story. Essentially the government is selling bonds in the culture of dependancy – crime, social healthcare, drug addiction etc are parcelled up and traded. Return on investment is achieved when incidences of dependency on the services are reduced. We are then taken through the scenarios which result from an incentivised privatised system. A pensioner cannot pay her debt and cannot get health care because she does not have papers.Youths are disenfranchised and angered by a system that has abandoned them, that cheats them to achieve incentives. Families making ends meet, forced to make tough decisions to survive. And then there is ‘the City’ playing the market for commercial gain. This part of the play is a series of short bursts of action. We are introduced to the concepts and ideas in quick succession which is fast paced and requires intense concentration. I think there is supposed to be laughter, but it generally doesn’t happen – I found my focus so strained I could not relax enough to see humour in it. However, it is cleverly thought through and each scenario is plausible. It is close to current times and I found it easy to envisage the fiction becoming a reality.

This theme culminates in the final, lengthy scene where a group of protesters, including characters we have met during the play, occupy an old court room in order to put the banking system on trial. This group is full of clichés – a hard nosed professional activist, a redundant banker, an angry Irishman, an anthropology student, the legalese expert, the disenfranchised youth and the poverty stricken pensioner. Each brings a facet of the issue to the fore which is a clever tool but just not real enough to draw me in. This scene drew heavily on the Occupy London movement but it appears too comfortable, too bourgeois to be anywhere close to reality. It concludes with a barrage of political, economic and historical facts and ideas, a fountain of verbosity about the heart of the problem and the solution. This is delivered with energy and vigour but I struggled to keep up as there is no time to process what is being said and no time to take ideas on board and form thoughts.

The cast are wonderful, many of them having performed at the Royal Court many times before. They bring that special edgy quality to their very contemporary characters. However, I feel they were fenced in a little by the clichés and I never really believed them. I found it difficult to enjoy this production, but I did enjoy its challenges and my guest did too. Would I recommend it? With so many wonderfully written, good quality contemporary productions elsewhere in London, I would struggle to suggest it to anyone. That said, if you are interested in the socioeconomic fall out of the banking crisis and you politically lean to the left, this may be right up your street.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep runs at the Royal Court until 9th March 2013.
Box Office: 020 7565 5000 or book online http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/if-you-dont-let-us-dream-we-wont-let-you-sleep

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