Youth theatre gold shine in Tory tales

PUBLISHED: 18:26 03 September 2008 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

THE National Youth Theatre of Great Britain is a huge organisation. Operated as a charity supported by Elton John and Sean Connery, it

THE National Youth Theatre of Great Britain is a huge organisation.

Operated as a charity supported by Elton John and Sean Connery, it reaches into classrooms all over the country and hoovers up raw talent, then moulds, nurtures and encourages young people to become involved in every level of theatre production.

Plays are created from ideas the kids submit and from then on they are constructed, polished and produced in-house.

Tory Boyz by award-winning playwright James Graham explores the psychology of MPs from the 1930s to today, in a fast moving and evocative panorama.

An excellent set by Anthony Lamble features a frosted glass movable wall, reminiscent of a pub, a swimming pool, or perhaps a public toilet.

Into this uncertain space strides Nicholas (a quicksilver, laugh-a-minute performance from Dan Ings).

He is in charge of an office in the House of Commons, churning out facts and figures to support the latest initiative from the leaders, and in the process becoming disillusioned with the serpentine diplomacy necessary to keep his job prospects moving in the right direction. At the next desk is Sam (Shaun Rivers), an introverted, closet gay from Manchester, who has brought along high ideals with his dowdy clothes in his move to London.

Nicholas pounces on this oddball and in a scathing diatribe, suggests he will get nowhere in politics, as a gay man, unless he keeps a clean sheet, so that the press, etc, cannot dig up some unsavoury titbit about him at a later date. Fade to the 1920s and Ted Heath (Tory Prime Minister 1970 - 1974) is playing with his friends, but instead of getting suitably dirty, he wants to dress up as 'Tedwina' the nurse, and from this moment he is treated cooly by his contemporaries.

"I felt different - strange - alone," he confesses to an ex-girlfriend in an uncharacteristically personal conversation after his mother dies.

The rumours are swirling at Westminster and it is only the fact that Ted has amassed files on every Tory bad boy and their misdemeanours that saves him from ostrascism. How these two themes are woven together, I will leave to your imagination, but the third storyline is set in a classroom where Sam tries to kindle the interest of unruly 15-year-olds in the workings of their parliament.

Naturally with rather mixed results. The acting is of a very high order (Daniel Ward as schoolkid Ray is exceptional) and the direction of Guy Hargreaves is confident and fast paced.

This is new theatre at its best and after the success of Team GB at the Olympics, it is wonderful to see another area where young people are triumphing (with a little help from Sir Elton).

l Tory Boyz is at the Soho Theatre in Dean Street, WiD 3NE until September 13. Tickets are from £10 to o£22.50 and are available from the box office on 0870 429 6883.

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