Waiting For Lefty

Waiting For Lefty
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
3 stars ***

ON A FRINGE where “political theatre” often involves nothing but a violent expression of anger, it comes as a pleasure – and even a joy – to see this young company from King’s College, London, present such an ambitious and thoughtful production of Clifford Odets’s 1935 one-act classic about a group of taxi drivers, working for the same company, who can no longer live on the pittance they are paid, and who have to decide what to do about it.  In a brief hour, as the men wait to hear from an activist called Lefty who never appears, the scene alternates between their shared discussions in a union meeting, and brief insights into their fraught and poverty-stricken private lives;  no play can ever have made audiences feel more clearly the link between economic exploitation outside the home, and private misery within it.

Some of the young eight-strong cast do better than others, at playing characters substantially older than themselves; and the switch from an American to a northern English voice doesn’t always work.  But in Michael Tucker’s production, all the actors seem tightly and impressively focussed on the main purpose of the show, which – in a phrase from Brecht’s Arturo Ui quoted on their website – is to rouse people confronted with injustice and exploitation to “learn how to see and not to gape; to act, instead of talking all day long.”

Joyce McMillan
Until 30 August
p. 302


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