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Fracked! at Richmond Theatre

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Fracking Good Comedy Satire
People power and fighting against the system couldn't be more topical subjects in the current climate and they have also provided political satirist Alistair Beaton with inspiration for a new comedy.

Fracked! UK tour, James Bolum, Anne Reid, Bromley Theatre, London
Fracked! is a topical play for our time.

Fracked! focuses on the controversial drilling for shale gas in a sleepy English village. I caught the show at Malvern Theatres, early on its UK tour after a successful stint at Chichester Festival Theatre, but the tour continues to Richmond Theatre in London on May 8 for one week.

The show opens quirkily by making the theatre part of a council meeting that is debating plans by Deerland Energy to frack in the village, which motivates pensioner Elizabeth Blackwood to step out from the crowd to voice her concerns.

Fracked! UK tour, James Bolum, Anne Reid, Bromley Theatre, London
James Bolum is well cast in the political satire

It turns her into a social media sensation overnight and as Blackwood's protest gains momentum, it sets alarm bells ringing with not only Deerland's highly-strung PR guru but also her husband Jack, who just wants to go back to the days when she had time to make Shepherd's Pie and play Scrabble rather than fight the system.

Anne Reid, from BBC1's Last Tango in Halifax, plays retired academic Elizabeth with a good balance of calm grit and integrity that has made her an accidental activist, although at times her voice was a little quiet and lacked the projection of her fellow cast members.

While fellow seasoned actor James Bolam, most recently seen in New Tricks, has the funniest lines as her husband. It's good casting as they are a strong pair of actors that have a natural rapport with each other and the audience.

They are well matched by Harry Hadden-Paton, who is the highlight of the show as ruthless PR spin-doctor Joe Selby. He has a touch of the Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It about him as he slinks around swearing, organising under-hand deals with politicians and generally behaving badly.

Fracked! UK tour, James Bolum, Anne Reid, Bromley Theatre, London
Harry Hadden Paton is magnificent as a ruthless PR guru in Fracked!

As a straight talker, Selby also has some of the most poignant lines of the script those hard truths for the audience, especially about bottled water, which shames us all.

Writer Beaton has had success in getting ammunition for scripts from politics with a portfolio that ranges from the BAFTA-nominated The Trial of Tony Blair to TV show Spitting Image.

The superb script tackles issues like PR spin and the conflict of interests for some scientists working in University departments funded by energy companies.

It is also refreshing to see that the script has also been rewritten with very recent updates to even include jokes about the newly-called election, Brexit and even the problems of getting a seat with United Airlines.

Fracked! UK tour, James Bolum, Anne Reid, Bromley Theatre, London
Fracked! is a play by political satirist Alistair Beaton

Richard Wilson directs this slick, witty drama that benefits from a first-rate set, which rotates between the lavish world of PR and village life, and cleverly shows a mini film about fracking early on as part of a presentation to update everyone watching on what this controversial topic is all about.

Michael Simkins, known for his many TV and West End roles including Yes, Prime Minister and HayFever, plays a somewhat honourable energy company owner that is there to make the case for fracking but overall this is a protest play against the move.

Fracked! is an exciting, witty, fast-paced play, but more than that, it's thought-provoking and rousing that might just stir us all into a bit of community activism. It's definitely worth going out of your way to get a ticket.

May 8 - 13
Richmond Theatre, London
Tickets cost 18.90 - 45.40 and are available from the Richmond Theatre website.
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Why? See political satire Fracked!
When: May 8 - 13, 2017
Phone: 0844 871 7651
Where: Richmond Theatre
Cost: 18.90 - 45.40
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