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by David Edgar
Review by John Thaxter (April 1981)David Edgar wrote his play Destiny to warn people about the reality of British fascism - what he called a hideously deformed way of getting cross.
And yet in this week's production by Youth Action Theatre, five years after it was first produced at Stratford by the RSC, it already has the nostalgic flavour of yesterday's witness.
Edgar shows us paramilitary groups plotting to overthrow the Labour Government; a Midlands by-election in which the parties both left and right take advantage of the immigration issue; an extreme right-wing party (here NF stands for Nation Forward) gaining a frighteningly large share of the votes; and finally the suggestion that big business will come to the aid of the new Nazis as it did to Hitler.
Refreshingly, this is a left wing play with no trace of the usual agit-prop mudslinging: indeed the facist case is preseted sympathetically through a portrait of an antique dealer who loses his livelihood when international speculators turn him out of his shop. What makes it difficult for a youth group to perform is that it is mainly about embitered middle-age with only a sprinkling of young characters.
As a result, the verdict on Eric Yardley's production must be a very brave try, with most of Edgar's message surviving intact.
The most successful scenes peripheral in the original production, are thos in which David Gray as the Labour candidate discusses his election strategy with his wife (Carol Palmer) and party worker Paul (Gary Jones). Here there was a real sense of committed people communicating at a personal level.
The right-wing ranks suffered from an excess of hair whitening. But there was a charismatic performance by Stephen Bentley as the Nazi leader, and Richard Kerley did very well as a "right-wing Trotskyite". I also like Sally Richardson's disillusioned Tory lady, and was sorry not to see more of Emma Hitching as Mrs Chandler.
Imran Khan as the Punjabi shop stewerd looked and acted very much as if this was his natural age and calling: a useful recruit to the YAT acting strength.
The setting designed by Graham Osborne was handsomely furnished by Debbie Lane's properties and (with Mike Elgey's imaginative lighting) would have done justice to a professional production - with a slight reservation about the Nazi regalia.
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