What is the sound of one arm shrugging? Or two arms for that matter? I’m not entirely sure. If I could think of a good word to encapsulate a sense of not-bothered-ness, a general lack of whelm, I would use it here, because that’s how I felt after watching Robin Soans’ latest at Hampstead Theatre.
This is another verbatim theatre piece in line with his previous work Talking To Terrorists. Only, in the case of Life After Scandal, this time it is more a matter of Talking To Disgraced Aristocrats – which doesn’t really have the same ring to it.
The play consists of a series of interwoven interviews with various public figures who have been involved in scandal – sexual, political, often a blend of the both – and whose lives subsequently became tabloid fodder, meat for the media. So we have contributions from Jonathan Aitken, Lord Brocket, the Ingrams (they of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire coughing farrago), an embittered Edwina Currie, Duncan Roy, who passed himself off as a Lord for some years, and Craig Murray, the vilified former ambassador to Uzbekistan. Oh, and Neil and Christine Hamilton. Because.
Anyway, Soans clearly has a knack for drawing people out of themselves and the stories were cleverly interlaced, I’ll give it that. But I simply struggled to care about these people and their predicaments. There were exceptions, there was pathos of sorts in the story of the elderly Lord Montagu who was embroiled in a homosexual scandal in the 1950s, a time when such things devastated lives rather than paving your way onto I’m A Celebrity, get me Out Of Here!. But often the juxtaposition between the more weighty issues – Murray discussing horrific human rights abuses in Uzbekistan – and, say the Hamiltons taking tea as they described their appearances on This Morning, felt more than a little awkward. Everything was slick and smooth and tautly (and, in the main, sympathetically) performed and it’s not that documentary techniques such as these have to be confined to Big Serious Themes only, but, still. I wanted more bite, more insight, more focus, and none was forthcoming. Oh and there was singing. A fair bit of singing. I really, really couldn’t fathom the point of the singing.
It was also press night and thus there were actors aplenty in the audience, as is the norm at such things. Post-show, they were doling out Brocket’s beer (yes, really, and no, I was not tempted to try any), though I did find the sight of the Hamiltons meeting ‘The Hamiltons’ (Caroline Quentin and Michael Mears) fairly amusing.