There is never a better time to push out a new political satire during these uncertain days, with the government, its MPs and leaders constantly under scrutiny for their views, policies – and even their lifestyle choices.
But Ian Buckley’s new comedy, James Bonney MP, which opened this week at Kennington’s White Bear Theatre, looks and sounds like a throwback from the 1980s, quaintly concentrating on that hoary old cliché of a randy old Honourable Member who is shagging his secretary.
As scandal goes it’s rather passé.
And that’s about it. Reading the programme it’s clear that dyed-in-the-wool socialist, Buckley, is keen to pour scorn on the fashionably centre-right lefties who have become entrenched in the Labour Party since Blair’s days.
But the writer fails to follow through. It’s nothing like a Labour version of The New Statesman or political comedies Yes, Minister and The Thick of It. Where’s the vitriol or scathing condemnation?
The play lacks detailed political knowledge. There’s no verbal attack on current themes like Brexit, immigration, the General Election, Trump, Tory policies or even mention of other MPs, with the exception of Corbyn.
Instead we have the bumbling, unenthusiastic James Bonney, Right Honourable Member for the fictitious Islington Central, who sits on the moderate right-wing of the Labour Party and describes himself as a social democrat.
James Bonney MP – the play – doesn’t get my vote. It isn’t dark enough or funny enough. It needs more contempt, subversion and laughs. There is barely a titter in the entire production.
The cast of six do a fine job with what they’ve got but they are let down by a weak script and lamentably predictable story. MP bonks PA wasn’t headline news 50 years ago.
Andrew Loudon, gives a very credible turn as the old goat, Bonney, who can’t resist the charms of his tasty blonde assistant, Jennifer.
He does a bit of dad dancing and groping, while pulling the wool over the eyes of his supportive wife, Christine (Karen McCaffery) and dodging commitments during a constituency battle for his seat.
Louise Tyler, as the “strumpet” (as Christine calls her, a word I’ve not heard for decades) appears in a succession of sexy outfits as befitting her underwritten role as the bit-on-the-side.
Malcolm Jeffries, as Bonney’s scheming agent, isn’t fleshed out much either.
The MP’s opposition is a thrusting young idealist from the ranks who also happens to live with Bonney’s daughter.
Ciaran Lonsdale lends authority to Labour left wing firebrand, rising star Malcolm Rose, but his hard-line beliefs seems hopelessly naive and outdated.
But, it turns out, Rose isn’t much different to Bonney. Neither give much thought to the women in their lives which wouldn’t go down well with Mr Corbyn.
Not quite a hustings horribilis but not exactly a vote winner either.
James Bonney MP runs at the White Bear Theatre until July 8.
James Bonney MP
Ian Buckley’s political satire, James Bonney MP, sacrifices scathing condemnation and vitriol for laughs and banality but fails to win my vote.