In many ways the illegal decisions by Westminster Council, which resulted in Lady Porter being forced to pay the council £12.3 million, are now standard practice across London – Anna Minton, Big Capital, 2017.
The Playground Theatre is going ahead with a full run of Shirleymander, Gregory Evans’s biting satire about the former council leader, after a successful rehearsed reading last year.
The scandal of the country’s huge social housing crisis has been in the news ever since last year’s tragedy at Grenfell Tower, in West London.
Now, The Playground Theatre, located just around the corner from Grenfell, is staging the dramatisation of another social housing scandal that rocked the country.
The UK stage premiere of Shirleymander, starring Jessica Martin in the title role, charts the events behind the Shirley Porter Westminster Council ‘homes for votes’ scandal of the 1980s.
Anthony Biggs’s production stars Jessica Martin as the former leader of Westminster Council and it follows a rehearsed reading of the show last November. She is joined by Jack Klaff, Omar Baroud and Amanda Waggott.
It’s 1986 and London is in the midst of a housing crisis. Homes stand empty while homelessness soars. Close-knit communities are destroyed for profit.
Tory councils are accused of ‘social cleansing’ as families are evicted and forced to move far away or into unsafe flats, while affordable homes are sold as investment properties.
First presented as a radio play in 2009 and inspired by BBC journalist Andrew Hosken’s book, Nothing Like A Dame, Gregory Evans’ comedy drama, tells the story of the flagship London council, which, 30 years ago, was at the centre of a major scandal.
Porter’s controlling, bullying, autocratic style led Westminster Council into a mire of paranoia, fear and skullduggery as she pursued, secret, illegal policies that destroyed communities, reputations and lives.
Exploring the perennial themes of greed, ambition and the normalisation of corruption, Shirleymander is a shocking, funny and often times moving reminder of how it is the weakest who bear the brunt when institutional wrong-doing takes control.
Jessica Martin made her name as a comic impressionist on television as one of LWT’s Copycats team and voice artist on Spitting Image.
She has since starred in Me and My Girl, Mack and Mabel, Sunset Boulevard, Spamalot, and, most recently, Elf the Musical.
Director Anthony Biggs said: “The Rise and fall of Shirley Porter is an extraordinary story – you really can’t make this stuff up.
“I read Shirleymander last year shortly after the Grenfell Tower tragedy and I was determined that my first play as artistic director at the Playground Theatre had to focus on social injustice and the stark inequalities we witness around us in London.
“Shirley Porter is not responsible for the fire at Grenfell, but her lack of care for those less fortunate chimes loudly today.”
Shirleymander runs at The Playground Theatre from May 23 – June 16.