The Absence Of War

By David Hare
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Presented by Headlong Theatres and Rose Theatre Kingston
Liverpool Playhouse
24th - 28th March 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

It is appropriate that this play, first premiered in 1993, is currently on a national tour, given that the General Election takes place in early May.

It fictionalises Labour's election debacle in 1992, which led to Neil Kinnock resigning as party leader, with John Smith and Tony Blair, among others,creating New Labour (given what resulted from this transition the term should have been termed New Old Labour).

The play illustrates Labour's dismal state then and how little has changed within the party in the present day.

Party leader George Jones (Reece Dinsdale) is modelled on Kinnock - all bluster with little substance.

What I found confusing in the opening part, having previously had little awareness about David Hare's play, was the mistaken belief that political advisor Malcolm Pryce (Gyuri Sarossy) was the leader of the party, not Jones. He was constantly followed by a minder (Theo Cowan), behaves as if he is the boss, and was at the centre of media attention. An odd portrayal of a mere advisor!

Another puzzling aspect was seeing members of the shadow cabinet referring to dear old Ceefax on BBC to find out the latest manoeuvrings of the Tories in the run up to the '92 election. Peculiar to say the least.

In one of the closing scenes you see Jones addressing party followers, speaking from the heart, with no prepared notes, but for some unexplained reason he then falls silent, and resorts to awkwardly searching his inside pockets for written prompts. It must be emphasised , despite his faults, that this did not happen to Kinnock.

Kinnock, an avid theatregoer, admired The Absence Of War to some degree, but felt it portrayed him as an arsehole. Maybe the same may be regarded of Ed Milliband following the election.

The play concludes its run two days after the vote on 7 May.

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