The final production of Festival 23, currently playing in the intimate Minerva Theatre, is a new drama by Harry Davies. Harry is an investigative journalist at The Guardian but he has a background in theatre and this political thriller is his first play. Joanna Bowman directs, following her previous success in Chichester with Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads.
This work of fiction gives us all a gripping insight into the workings of a public inquiry on a matter of public importance. Rising star Arthur Gill is already Secretary of State and tipped to be favourite in the next leadership race for Prime Minister. However, Lady Justice Deborah Wingate is about to publish her findings on the public health water scandal that took place while Gill was Environment Minister. How far will those involved go to protect their futures, hide their past and deal with the toxic allegations, hostile campaigns against them and serious leverage, to stay in public office?
Designer Max Jones has excelled with his stylish set, offering dark panelling, scarlet chairs and an imposing crest to create the atmosphere of the corridors of power, then in the second half seamlessly transforms into an attractive flower filled French terrasse.
Deborah Findlay and Malcolm Sinclair make a return to Chichester taking on the roles of Lady Justice Deborah Wingate and Lord Patrick Thorncliffe KC. Findlay is compelling she is both formidable, assertive and with a determination to match. Resisting an offer of a dignified exit she stands firm when serious threats are made against her. Sinclair portrays great charm in his role as wheeler dealer, though with dubious morals, as he relays his suggestions amidst leaked sensitive information. There is good support too from Shazia Nicholls as the feisty journalist Elyse Laing and charismatic Nicholas Rowe playing Jonathan Hayden KC.
This is an inspiring snapshot of the perceived intrigue, deception and toxicity surrounding fierce political ambition.
Reviewer: Jill Lawrie
Photo: Manuel Harlen