As a few observant types will have noticed, there have been uprisings taking place across the Arab world since 2010. Governments have been overthrown, tens of thousands have died and in 2011 Time magazine named ‘The Protester’ as its Person of the Year. The Arab Spring is dramatic but how relevant can it be to the average Brit? Granted, last summer’s riots got pretty hot but they burned out after a few days. Sure, David Cameron and chums are a nightmare for social equality but they know there’s a limit to grinding down their people. Right?
Not according to Francis Beckett’s new play, The London Spring. Set in a dystopian London of the 2020s in which all natives – from corrupt security enforcers to impoverished ex-Oxford professors – survive by creaming money off rich tourists. This is a ‘before’ shot of a revolutionary society with a ring of bleak authenticity coming from Beckett’s background in political journalism.
It is a credit to Beckett’s skill and wit as a writer that this high-concept political satire, which lasts only an hour, contains enough theory to create genuine fear for the future while being stripped down enough to make sense to people without a political background. He is wise to leaven the heavy content with wry digs – when the lead character, an American doctor, says to his tour guide, ‘General de Gaulle? He’s the French guy who knew President Kennedy right?’ She responds deadpan: ‘Yes, well that story’s really for the advanced groups.’
As in 2011’s financial crisis film Margin Call, characters are ciphers for contrasting outlooks rather than complex individuals. However, each cast member tells their story with a raw intensity that shows the writing in its best light. A bum note is played by Mike Duran’s mangled New York accent (The London Spring boasts a menagerie of accents) but, otherwise, this cautionary tale successfully imagines a fractured social reality that is worryingly plausible.
The London Spring is playing until March 25 at:
Etcetera Theatre (above the Oxford Arms)
265 Camden High Street
Box office: 020 7482 4857