Review: The Polis

En Qi Chang 15 May 2013

The Polis

ADC Bar, Mon 13th May, 8pm

The Polis is staked on an unusual premise—that “Politics is theatre. It doesn’t matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, I’m here, pay attention to me.”

Well, it certainly fulfilled that premise and makes a very bold statement. Six statements, to be precise. It comprised of three plays and two monologues, interspersed with brilliant pieces of poetry by Justina Kehinde Oguneitan. The directors Nikita Simpson and Josh Simons used the space of the ADC Bar to create an intimate setting, yet one that, at the same time, never let the audience forget the fact that it was a play because of the overlap between the stage and the audience.

The evening opened beautifully with an insightful, poignantly delivered poem by Justina on racial politics. ‘Anonymous’, written by Henry St-Leger Davey, followed. In it, an idealistic politician Jim is let into a huge political secret — the existence of the Anonymous political party, whose purpose it is to “mess up to show how messed up politicians are”. This revelation, and the Anonymous party’s continued glorifying in their antics, disgusts him and he leaves, whereupon it is revealed that it is a farce. The play captured the genuinely messed-up nature of politics, for example when Jim’s superior dashes off to an emergency meeting because of something Boris Johnson has done. And what’s he done this time? “Fallen over”, she remarks tartly, draining her glass and exiting the bar.

Continuing on with strange political conspiracies was ‘The Jubilee’, written and directed by Zoe Higgins. A well-organised team of revolutionaries are about to storm Parliament to gain… proportional representation? A newcomer amongst them is aghast and leaves, but alas, she knows too much, and has to be taken down by their ineffectual, grunting accomplice.

Next, Edward Eustace delivered a confident performance of his well-written monologue ‘The History of Art—Art is the new Politics’.Next up came ‘Out on a Limb’, starring a very annoyed BBC News reporter, Emma (played by Clementine Hollyer) and political activist Rodney. Stumbling onto the scene is Colin from Staffordshire, who turns Rodney’s serious arguments about the Blair administration’s indifference into gibberish.Somehow, along the way, Emma gets knocked out by Rodney, and so Colin does the interview, and asks about bladders and collateral damage. Rodney answers with his standard “This government needs to know…”, then, realising what Colin said, goes, “Hang on… what?” and the play ends with iconic confused faces.

Finally, ‘Making Feminism Fashionable’ was an incisive monologue by Poppy Damon, and brilliantly pulled-off by Octavia Sheepshanks. With her lovely auburn bob and neon orange skirt, Sheepshanks plays the part brilliantly. The writing is so ironic it hurts— Octavia exhorts her bevy of practising feminists to remember to convey that “gender equality is sexy, sassy and above all, adorable”. The irony of it was sharpened by Ogunseitan’s preceding poignant poem on genital mutilation. Ogunseitan ended the evening with a flourish—an eloquent poem on racial politics, with the stunning line, “I am brown…I am a shade that cannot be expressed in the shades that coat your canvas. I am black, but I am not darkness”.

Overall, The Polis was an interesting mix of seriousness and irony, sustained by very good acting, and made important and relevant political statements.

En Qi Chang