The current trend in London theatre at the moment seems to be discussing politics more than ever. What with James Graham’s two plays Labour of Love, based on the Labour party, and Ink, based on the early beginnings of The Sun newspaper and now Chris Hannan’s play What Shadows currently playing at the Park Theatre. What Shadows follows Enoch Powell, who was a Member of Parliament for South Down, leading up to his infamous Rivers of Blood speech on immigration in 1968 and the consequences that follow afterwards. The play cross cuts between the 1960’s and 1992 where Rose Cruikshank, an Oxford graduate and daughter of an immigrant, wants answers about his speech.
Ian McDiarmid’s transition from middle aged to an elderly man with Parkinson’s is superb and is brilliantly acted. He is paired with Amelia Donker as Rose, who is written as Powell’s opposition in the play. She challenges him. It’s easy to see her as a typical uptight, snooty Oxford graduate but Rose is a determined fighter. And towards the end of the play the positions of power are reversed. The rest of the cast is fantastic too, they often play more than one character and do so seamlessly.
However, I wish the play had a bit more structure as most of the scenes that featured Enoch Powell were mostly him trying to justify why he was being racist. It became very tedious and ,even though Ian McDiarmid inhabited him brilliantly: it didn’t save the show. It’s an interesting take on a stand out moment in British political history but does become tedious very quickly.
What Shadows is currently running at the Park Theatre until 28th October. For tickets and more information please visit https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/what-shadows
Until next time,