You have to hand it to Josie Rourke and James Graham, they don’t make things easy. Kicking off the partnership with Privacy at the Donmar last year, they’ve followed it up with The Vote. A 90 minute production (or 87 minutes and 50 seconds last night owing to the missing ad break) that includes a cast of 40, is only on for two weeks prior to the real vote and will end with a live broadcast on election night, this must be a logistical nightmare.
Note: this review is based on a preview performance on 1st May 2015.
Luckily then, it’s not a dramatic nightmare as well. Playing out like a feature-length sitcom, The Vote is set in a school hall in the final hours of the election. And as the clock on the back wall gets nearer and nearer to closing time, the main story focuses on vote officials Steven Crosswell (Mark Gatiss), Kirsty Henderson (Catherine Tate) and Laura Williams (Nina Sosanya). In an election that’s nail-bitingly close, what does happen when a voter manages to put in two ballot slips, and should the officials save face and rectify it themselves, or be honest and admit fault?
But while the main thrust of the story is set around the double vote, this is really about the many characters that come and go throughout the ninety-minutes. All with their own idiosyncrasies, they’re heightened versions of every day people. Fred Norris (Timothy West) as the confused double voter. Jonathan Clarke (Fisayo Akinade), the 17-year-old GBF who wants to take part but is sent on his way. Alastair Swift (Hadley Fraser), the arrogant drunk who insists it’s his right to leave the polling station with his ballot for a little extra thinking time. Christine Metcalf (Judi Dench) and Lola Dench (Flinty Williams), the mother and daughter of the same address who, following a registration mishap, only have one vote between them…
It’s the comings and goings that add the personality to the play. And it’s the variation that makes this a laugh out loud production. Held up by a cast who deliver the lines with perfect comic timing, the play has some serious gusto. It’s snappy, it’s fast-paced and it’s probably the funniest thing I’ve seen on stage in a long time. And based on the audience reaction around me, it was the same for them. Well, anything that involves Judi Dench dropping an f-bomb as she battles to cast her vote is always going to be a winner.
That’s not to say it’s completely without fault. There are currently the odd moments that fall slightly flatter than the rest. And this is very much prepped for the TV with characters shutting up in the background while others talk up front, which often leaves them looking a bit lost and pointless to the theatre audience. And from a design point of view, Robert Jones’s set isn’t going to win any awards, although it’s nice and functional for the piece.
Special mention has to go to Catherine Tate who I have to admit I’ve never really been a fan of but did shine in this. Her delivery of Graham’s script was spot-on and had me in stitches during the Haribo analogy.
I strongly urge you to either grab a day seat or watch this on the live broadcast. It’s a simple premise and a basic production, but it is an enjoyable one, and had me uncontrollably laughing at a fair few moments. An absolutely brilliant cast who are all clearly loving being part of a unique one-off theatrical event. And I walked out on an absolute high amongst chatter of much approval.
The Vote is running at the Donmar Warehouse until 7th May. All tickets are currently sold out with the exception of day seats. More details can be found at the Donmar Warehouse website. If you don’t manage to get to see it, be sure to catch it on More 4 at 8:30 on election night.
And the view…
Circle, Row B, Seat 43. An absolutely fine view. There were the odd moments that took place below the circle for a few seconds and I’m far more comfortable leaning forward in these seats than I would be sitting up, but no complaints from me.