Assessment @ Gilded Balloon
The old are ‘shafting’ the young: an ageing population is becoming an ever-larger drain on a welfare state already squeezed and politicians are running out of ideas as to how to reduce the deficit.
Eventually a solution comes: save spending on state pensions, winter fuel allowance, healthcare, prescriptions, simply by offering everyone a one-off lump sum on their 77th birthday. The catch? They are euthanised.
The premise for Shows on a Shoestring’s Assessment is strong and Robert Dawson Scott’s script is tight, tapping into a Ken Loachian anger several years further down the line towards an all-too-believable dystopia. The tagline ‘The Future: But Only Just’ speaks to the immediacy of the piece, a satire that, though shocking, does not push beyond the realms of imminent plausible reality – indeed, every stat quoted in the play is drawn from current government sources.
Stephen Clyde gives a barnstorming performance as Alan McDonald, the man faced with the decision between his life and his ‘legacy’. In a lengthy monologue in which he addresses his dead wife’s framed picture, the writing and Clyde’s performance marry to create a truly moving moment of theatre, while his resentment for the greed of his daughter echoes of Lear in an underplayed but poignant manner.
Unfortunately, the writing and performances around the central character of McDonald do not quite reach the same heights. Selina Boyack and Taqi Nazeer are the comic book villains – salesmen of the ironically-named ‘Well-Gov’, employed to obfuscate and exploit until their targets give in – but their performances stray from exaggerated satire towards hammy levels of slime, detracting from the realism of Clyde.
The ideas in Assessment are good, the central performance great, but things don’t quite come together enough to provide a satisfying end product.