David Edgar aged 20 and 70

Whatever you think of his politics, you can’t fault his honesty. David Edgar has described his almost-solo show as a ‘conversation with his 20-year-old self’, and neither that long-ago young man nor the 70-year-old Edgar now on stage pull any punches.

As we all know (and an ‘ask the audience’ sequence at the beginning confirms) the demographic most likely to vote Leave in 2016 were those aged over 65.

The generation on the barricades in ’68, David Edgar’s own generation, were the rebels, the radicals, the revolutionary Marxists.

So where, to coin a phrase, did it all go Right?

Edgar spends the next 80 minutes digging around in his own left-wing past for some answers (literally – the cardboard-box and filing cabinet set is put to good use).

He quotes himself, puts up videos of others, externalises his own young voice through a tinny old tape recorder, and (again, literally) bursts his own balloon. It’s not so much looking back in anger as equal parts fragile pride and awkward embarrassment (rather more red-faced than Red Flag).  

It’s a perambulating journey then through Trying It On, but from a playwright of Edgar’s skill and experience there’s method in the meander.

Some of the tangents were fascinating – like his comparison of the structure of Shakespearean comedy to the Northern Line. And I can’t have been the only person in the audience to be genuinely surprised at how many elements of  the 1983 Labour Party manifesto (that so called ‘longest suicide note in history’) are mainstream facts of life now -achievements Edgar’s generation can in large part be credited for.

That said, the final part of the show didn’t work for me. I can understand why Edgar wanted to bring in a younger voice – a contemporary version of his 20-year-old self to harangue him about all the advances that haven’t yet been made, and all the issues that now beset us – but the patently scripted intrusion of his ‘stage manager’ was too obviously artificial.

A provocative piece, all the same, for these unruly times.

ON TONIGHT AT The NORTH WALL. Tickets at thenorthwall.com

By Lynn Court

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