Review: Lottery, New Diorama Theatre

 On the stage sits two chairs, a desk, and a curtain. All composed of or smothered in shredded paper. Washed over with a blue light, it looks cold and uninviting. Written by Simon Paris, Lottery explores the idea of a Prime Minister drawn at ‘random’, once every four years from a list of everyone in the nation. The play has just three actors, Elliott Bornemann as the left-wing voice of reason, a right-wing neurotic advisor (Rhys Tees), and a woman somehow caught up in it all when she is randomly selected to be Prime Minister (Ava Pickett). In the dreary dystopian-esque setting, all characters wear varying shades of grey at all times, with the exception of Wednesdays, when the Mean Girls inspired newly-passed law requires everyone to wear hot pink.

As the play begins, we’re quickly thrown into a sharp dialogue between Bornemann and Pickett, littered with sexual innuendos and slightly macabre jokes about the Jury duty they are undertaking. The small size of the venue makes the intentionally awkward moments tangible, and it is very nearly too much. They set about discussing how much they dislike their bosses, as us Brits do, when Pickett’s character asks ‘Do you have to be a dick to become the boss, or does being a boss make you a dick?’ This seems to be the underlying question throughout the play, as we watch her squirm and flounder in her new position as Prime Minister. As she shouts out ridiculous Orwellian ideas, the futility of her position is made clear.

Paris’ writing is sharp and politically succinct, from an inventive acronym for the word ‘scum’ (socially challenged underpaid masses) to the moment in which information is passed from advisor to the Prime Minister in a game of Chinese whispers, involving a row of the crowd. Pickett and Tees, and their impeccable comic timing, present the whole job of Prime Minister as somewhat of a joke. She makes decisions under pressure from the moderately inappropriate and thoroughly annoying advisor – who also performs a beautiful rendition of the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’and the question presented to us at the beginning of the play rears its ugly head again, was she already a ‘dick’? Or has her position, and the pressure that comes with it, made her one? I wondered if David Cameron ever experienced half the turmoil.

Fictive Theatre presents a unique and thought-provoking idea in chuckle-inducing, satirical way. The theatrical equivalent of ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’, Lottery pokes fun at modern politics in a dark manner, exploring the materialistic popularity contest it seems to have become, yet somehow remains funny in an unequivocally British way.

Lottery played at New Diorama Theatre on 11 September as part of the NDT Graduate Emerging Companies Showcase. For more information and tickets, see the New Diorama Theatre website.

Photo: Joe Brayford