What better night to watch a piece of whimsical political theatre than election night? Some may groan at the prospect of more rallying after months of shameless campaigning filling our headlines, but a whimsical musical satirising the American presidential elections was just the tonic for me.
Sat in a comfortable seat within the intimate London Theatre Workshop, I watched 90 minutes of fast past electioneering that ranged from caricatured stately speeches behind podiums, brutal bitch matches in boxing rings, sassy tap numbers and an all out mental moment with some flags. Yep, theatrical chaos like that presented in Vote for Me are the reasons I love musicals.
The cast of 6 were adept at their roles; two pushy presidential candidates (one a woman grappling at becoming the first female president) and their first “ladies” in waiting, one frazzled news reporter and one political adviser. The troupe accentuated the comedy and ridiculousness of the text whilst also holding the audience accountable for allowing what is essentially a puppet to come to power. Nicely done!
Whilst the cast worked best as a deranged troupe, there were some fantastic individual show moments such as Emily Lynne’s rendition of “Middle East Disney Land,” Hans Rye’s “Am I Nervous,” Jennie Jacobs’ “Why Aren’t You President, Yet” and Lucy Grainger’s totally impressive flag work in “VOTE!” (For Me.) Not to be forgotten, Joe Leather has some pretty intense klaxon work to do, which definitely tickled me!
Director, Dom O’Hanlon, made some brave directorial decisions, leading the cast through musical numbers with umbrellas, glittery hats, tap shoes, Micky Mouse ears and flags. What in some shows could have appeared busy and overcooked was in fact a jazzy treat to the eyes and ears!
There is no doubt that this show is high quality for medium budget and for fringe prices it is totally worthy of investment. That said there are still tiny kinks that could do with ironing out, including a slightly awkward but nonetheless entertaining mask number and a non existent iPad.
Vote for Me is running at the London Theatre Workshop, a lovely studio space above the equally lovely Eel Brook pub. Go along, have a reasonably priced wine in the airy bar first. Even if you are sick to the back teeth of the UK general election you will enjoy this show. Those of you sad at the real life result can laugh through your tears and even try your hand a voting again for the candidates in the show. Note: this time, your vote actually counts.
Buddy Rounsaville – Hans Rye
Janet Tilghman – Emily Lynee
Amy Rounsaville – Jennie Jacobs
Roger Tilghman – Arvid Larsen
The Advisor – Joe Leather
Robyn Fiedler – Lucy Grainger
Q&A with the cast
OfficialTheatre and our group of #LDNTheatreBloggers were given the chance to grill the cast after the show. The best kinds of grilling take place with wine and doughnuts, right?! Here is what we found out from the creative young troupe
Q:So who voted today?!
All team but two raise their hands.
Emily Lynne, Olga-Marie Pratt and Hans Rye were not allowed to because of their nationalities (American and Norwegian)
Q: Was the ending real?
Hans Rye: Yes! I would have sung a song! I would have been “I won this one.” It would have been great!
Emily Lynne: The first night was a draw!
Dom: We never expected a draw, apparently it never happens! Apparently 80% of the time Janet wins and 20% of the time Buddy wines. When we got a draw, we hadn’t fully rehearsed it, it was a surprise. We had to go with it!
Q: Who would you have all voted for if the voting in the show was real?
Emily: I love Buddy’s character! I was reading the script, I loved his comedy! I though DAMN, I really want to play him.
Jennie: I would vote Buddy because then we could do our ending….
Hans: If it was real life I would vote for Jennie. Buddy is a fool.
Q: [To Lucy Grainger] How did you learn all of those counties names in that order during “VOTE! (For Me!)” ?
Lucy : Ahh there is no rhyme or reason or logic! I have a slight photographic memory, if I can visualise it on the page it is easier. I knew I had to do it so when I had the script I stayed in on two Friday’s and one Saturday to learn my countries! I even had to Youtube how to pronounce some of them.
Dom: It was supposed to be done on a slide show, but then we decided we didn’t want a slide show, we wanted to do some flag dancing! Ha!
Lucy: The trivia will come in handy one day!
Q: Dominic, you have thrown in a tap dancing number with umbrellas and glittery hats, you have a Mickey Mouse sequence, you have a boxing ring sequence, you have a FLAG dance…where do you come up with all your quirky ideas?
Dominic: They are all stolen! I go to the theatre a lot for my job and I see so many moments I like. The best thing about directing is that you get to absorb amazing work, seeing what everyone else does then adapting it, making it better, changing it to fit your piece. Every rehearsal I’d turn up and throw something new at them! Like, today we are going to do hats, or today we will do umbrellas!
Olga: When we were gearing up the writers [Drew Fornarola and Scott Elmegreen] for the show, they were like “oh….so…er…lots of props?!” Yep!
Dom: The writers are coming next weekend from New York to see it! They are doing a masterclass and concert at the London Theatre Workshop whilst they are here!
Jennie: I am so intrigued as to what they will say when they see the show!
Dom: “I have only ever previously done shows by dead people!”
Q: I am intrigued by the timing of it, why now?
Dominic: Well, after it is all done, British people can come and have a laugh at it. It is also about the American presidential elections, so it is also something a bit different.
Q: Why an American play?
Dom: There is nothing exactly like this in British theatre; debates aren’t so much done in musicals. Also there is a good tradition at the London Theatre Workshop of working with American texts.
Yep. That is a picture of me with the cast…presidential, right?!
Thanks again to Dom, the cast and creative team of Vote For Me and the London Theatre Workshop for hosting the #LDNtheatreBloggers for the evening. We had a lovely, lovely time!