Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Tony's Last Tape at the Bridge House Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Tony's Last Tape at the Bridge House Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Tony's Last Tape at the Bridge House Theatre
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-19564,single-format-standard,tribe-no-js,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.2.1,vc_responsive

06 May REVIEW: Tony’s Last Tape at the Bridge House Theatre

Tony Benn. His name precedes him in a way far more fitting than any ordinary introduction, loved and loathed by so many, and influencing so many more. A politician, activist, father, grandfather, and diarist, his life’s experience is utterly incomparable. Who else can say they met Mahatma Ghandi as a boy, flew in the Royal Air Force during World War II, fought to keep the “e” at the end of “concorde” and served as a cabinet minister under two different prime ministers? During his lifetime, Benn diligently diarised his experiences into eight published volumes, fertile ground for script writer Andy Barrett to draw inspiration from. He imagines Benn taking the decision to record his final tape, speculating about what it might contain, and the emotions that would have gone with it.

Under heavy influence of the diaries themselves, the script is filled with sharp witticisms and so many moments from the life of the eponymous man, from meeting General Mao in China, to erecting unauthorised plaques in the Houses of Parliament, though each experience is only gently touched upon; in keeping with the tape diary format, the presumption is very much that audiences will have at least a good working knowledge of Benn’s policies and contributions. It’s something that’s likely to be a challenge for some audience members and exposes a lack of detailed explanation, though, chances are, if you’re going to see Tony’s Last Tape, you’re probably reasonably familiar with Benn and his colleagues.

Despite being rather slow to get going and somewhat lacking in momentum, the play does a fantastic job of showing the person behind the politician, at once putting on stage the impassioned Benn fighting for a cause, a side of him that once had him described as “the most dangerous man in Britain,” whilst simultaneously being a visible image of human frailty, vulnerable and alone up against the challenges of just living.

It’s that duality that makes the show so impactful, seeing a mundane yet perfectly crafted office (Rachael Jacks), containing an ordinary-looking elderly man pottering about and then just bursting with marvellous stories. But equally significant in delivering an enjoyable play is that as Benn, Philip Bretherton is excellent, boasting remarkable visual and aural similarities to his character, and playing his role with utter conviction.

But more than anything, the subject matter – the life of Tony Benn – is just fascinating; even though he inhabited the far left end of the political spectrum, wherever on that spectrum your own beliefs belong, it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t an extraordinary man. With a parliamentary career spanning more than 50 years, he saw more of the mechanics of Westminster than most, and made decision after decision that probably continue to affect all of us every day. A year after his death, Tony’s Last Tape is a lovely recollection of an incredible career, a controversial character and a stalwart of British politics.

Dates: 27th April – 18th May 2015
Venue: Bridge House Theatre
For information and tickets:
Image: Robert Day

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here