Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Vote For Me at the London Theatre Workshop
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Vote For Me at the London Theatre Workshop
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Vote For Me at the London Theatre Workshop
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09 May REVIEW: Vote For Me at the London Theatre Workshop

Following a month of manifestos, campaigning and televised debates, culminating in a week of frantic electioneering, opinion polls, exit polls and an exhausting Thursday night watching each constituency declare, it has to be said that the prospect of a Friday evening spent in front of a musical about another election, in a country whose system it sometimes feels like you need a doctorate to fully understand, didn’t feel like the most tempting of prospects. But as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong, and to be frank, it was rather poor form being so downright unfairly negative – especially since, to date, the London Theatre Workshop is yet to show me a performance I haven’t raved about. Vote For Me proved itself to be more than just an antidote for the most recent election; it showed itself to also be a hysterical deconstruction of political positioning, spin doctors and their “unique fact management,” and the lengths people will go to for a fancy address.

Vote For Me takes us inside the third televised debate of the campaign, behind the scenes and into the minds of democrat candidate Janet Tilghman (Emily Lynne) and republican Buddy Rounsaville (Hans Rye) fighting it out for the keys to the White House over crucial and (somehow) controversial topics, like whether or not evolution is even real. With sassy chairwomen Robyn Fielder (Lucy Grainger) presiding, who will manage to remember their lines in the unscripted debate? How on earth will their advisors (Joe Leather) spin their garb into sexy soundbites? And will the new First Lady be glamorous seductress Amy Rounsaville (Jennie Jacobs) or family man Roger Tilghman (Arvid Larsen)?

Elmegreen and Fornarola’s characters are bonkers caricatures of genuine candidates, familiar whatever your background and political persuasion. Irresistibly funny, the laughs come through scathingly cynical and far-too-honest writing, as well as brilliant comic timing rather than overstated acting silliness or slapstick. The strong cast delivers comedy, vocals and dance with style and pizzazz, though there are moments that could do with a spot more polish, and it would have been exciting to see what a professional choreographer could have done with the abundance of energy and competence the cast bring to the show.

Musically cohesive and scathingly cynical from start to finish, Dom O’Hanlon’s artistic vision is the difference between Vote For Me being a fun musical, and it being a creatively notable piece of musical theatre that’s hilarious to boot. An all-singing-all-dancing satire, his staging of Scandal Tango and Spin are highlights, encapsulating that glorious sense of someone getting just a little bit carried away. But just as impressive is how between O’Hanlon and musical director Chris Guard, they’ve put together an un-mic’ed musical where the sound levels are exactly right, an achievement uncommon enough that it’s certainly worth boasting of.

As well as imaginative presentation, there’s also some food for thought in the show. On the day that three UK party leaders stood down, delivering impassioned speeches that had supporters in floods of tears and politics editors declaring they might have won if they’d fought their election campaigns that way, amongst all the laughs Vote For Me also shows the human side to running a campaign. The pressure, expectation and culmination of a lifetime of hopes, dreams and hard work, all resting on a pair of nervous shoulders. A timely reminder, perhaps, that few go into politics with deliberately ill intentions.

When the ballots are in, and the papers counted, Vote For Me is a clear winner. With the imagination of O’Hanlon, and very little in the way of required knowledge, far from labouring the “election” point, it’s the most wonderful liberation from the seriousness of the last month. In short, a musical I’d recommend at any time of the five-year office term.

Dates: 5th May – 23rd May 2015
Venue: London Theatre Workshop
For information and tickets:

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.
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