The latest production of this Yes Minister-style play by Steve Thompson comes in the wake of the Andrew Mitchell debacle and is a well-timed and amusing, if slightly stereotyped and unoriginal, insight into the inner machinations of the British political scene.
An aspiring Tory Junior Whip, played by Josh Dolphin, navigates his way through a party crisis of dissenting MPs whilst under the watchful eye of his elder, Deputy Whip, Alastair, played by the suave Conor Robinson. Audiences will not be disappointed by the predictable shit-stirring, quasi-anarchy and political deviousness that ensues in this political comedy.
What is clear is that, whilst some individuals do stand out, director Tom Dowling and producer Nicole Evans have not quite managed to secure a cast of equal and consistent ability. Dolphin is satisfyingly sharp, caustic and arrogant, Robinson settles into the role of a Tory overseer with alarmingly realistic ease, whilst Ben Dovey conveys his naivety as a backbencher MP a little too simplistically and needs to fine-tune his posture.
Christian Kinnersley is entertaining and delightfully eccentric as Chief Whip, yet is often unintelligible – a shame because his lines have potential to cause many laughs.
Although all actors show promise, this inconsistency means that they have not quite managed to bounce off each other with the cynical sharpness required of a political satire piece. Of course, this should all slot into place when lines are learnt and business suits are donned.
However, even the stronger actors have yet to pinpoint the epicentre of their characters. Dolphin’s adoption of a (admittedly very convincing) Scottish accent appears to be aimed more at providing a comedic presence and variation amongst his fellow actors rather than perfecting the integrity of his character. Robinson is evidently a competent actor but tends to deliver his lines more in the style of a Shakespearian monologue than a The Thick of it-esque tirade. However, it could be argued that this is simply a clever interpretation of Tory politics: a statement about the theatricality of political dealings.
What is apparent is that those with the smaller roles shine through. Siwan Clark is convincing as the coy government researcher Maggie, and Emily Troup displays natural ability in her role as Delia, the cold opposition Whip, although the sexual tension between her and Robinson is sudden and jars with the previous scene’s political discourse. Yet this has potential to become one of the most effective scenes if developed further.
With a week left to go before opening night, Whipping It Up still has a long way to go before it becomes a polished student production. Nevertheless, with the fine-tuning and guidance of an insightful director, together with the efforts of a remarkably receptive cast (there was tangible improvement over the course of just one rehearsal), it looks set to be an entertaining watch.
Whipping It Up runs from the 22nd to 26th January in The Burton Taylor Studio.
Tickets available from £5.