The coalition government might be tearing through the country with their cash-cutting cuts causing those of us in the arts to shake in our boots, but Theatre503 presents a different form of coalition in their ‘Theatrical Collaborations for a new Political Era’ with Coalition plays. 10 writers are paired with 10 artists of different disciplines to create short theatre pieces through collaboration, showing that perhaps not all coalitions are destined to get such a bad reputation so early on.

Coalition is presented in two groups, colour coded to match the political counterparts of Blue and Yellow. This review focuses on those within the Blue Group, you can read Tiffany’s review of the Yellow Group here.

Westminister Side Story, a take on the much loved West Side Story see’s Nick Clegg and his party battle with the internal conflicts of reaching the crossroads of whose political ‘gang’ to join during the days preceding the general election, of course shown through musical song and dance. The collaboration between Richard Marsh and Rogue Nouveau is side splitting funny, with witty song lyrics and stylised dance moves similar to West Side Story that offer a laugh a minute. “Camerons not evil, he just has a different idea of good” and “Churchill use to sell courage / now he sells insurance” offer a glimpse into this satirical musical. What Westminister Side Story offers is a highly polished take on the events and relationships between the political party leaders, which I hope gets developed further beyond Coalition. Possibly another Tony Blair: The Musical? Yet it’s not all fun and games, there is a serious message to convey, as we are told. If we disagree with what is made by those we voted for, why aren’t we doing something about it? Where even the Arts Funding Cuts gets a reference in “Whats more important, tickets or pickets?“, referring to the arts world anger over a possible loss in tickets when really we should be on the picket line protesting.

Altogether Now, a collaboration between Sarah Grochala and Heydon Prowse, Joseph Wade and William Pine, see’s the UK in the after affects of all the Government cuts to local services. With the local library shut down, and corporate brands such as Starbucks and Cafe Nero now operating the Job Centre – Altogether Now paints a bleak world we could face. However spurred on by downfall of local services, a local army officer rallies the troops (the community) into fighting back. Whilst I’m not entirely convinced in the writing, Altogether Now does offer a message to those who watch, how effective can The Conservatives take on ‘the big society’ actually work?

Miriam. Gonzalez. Durantez. is possibly the most well written and compassionate responses in Coalition delivered by the Blue Group. The work between Sarah Solemani and Rebecca Greig focuses on a wonderful portrayal of Miriam, Nick Clegg’s wife, and shows the untold story behind their relationship and family strain they endure. It’s nice to see the focus on not necessarily David or Nick in the limelight but those people working alongside them, the family that devote as much time and energy to the cause. Miriam… is beautifully written and performed in a truly convincing manner to offer a glimpse into the emotion, physically and mentally of a coalition between two parties, and a husband and wife.

Dexterity by Daniel Kanaber and Kirsty McNeill takes the notion of coalition with a distant connection to an otherwise fictional couple. This simple duologue is explosive in its deliverance, and brilliant at taking the theme into a new context, that of the relationship between two people, and one being seduced by the prospects of something big – in this case, an unborn child. What I most admire about Dexterity is the clever twisting and seduction of collaboration between the two characters in the focus. Whilst a female/male relationship, the connections between Cameron and Clegg is uncanny in the initial feelings of “This can’t work – I don’t like you”, to the haunting “It’s our future growing”. Was Clegg played for a fool into believing that what could be ‘born’ between himself and Cameron could be something of value? Or is it simply a seduction for another means? With quick-fire dialogue and witty comparisons Dexterity fits brilliant into Coalition.

Possibly the most abstract piece in Coalition comes The Prophets and the Puppets, a collaboration between Nimer Rashed and Ronnie Le Drew. Set within a World War 2 setting, a race of puppets are oppressed by those who believe their existance in this world to be wrong, and untrue. Two lovers might be falling in love and destined to married, but a puppet from the past clings desperately onto their future. Whilst a little obscure to the theme of collaboration/coalition, The Prophets… see’s puppets and their puppeteers compared to those in political power and ultimately as Clegg being a puppet for Cameron. It takes a while to see those connections, but much like Dexterity it offers a unique take upon the evenings theme, and ultimately takes the notion of puppetry to a political level. It also offers the only real connection to emotion of the evening, with the removing of the strings that are supporting the marionette puppet. Whilst not tear-jerking it does offer a captivating image to leave Coaliton on.

Coalition by Theatre 503 is an excellent notion for creating theatre work through collaboration, and even more fitting with the political theme. Whilst not all pieces quite hit the mark, those that do offer an insightful, and joyous theatrical experience in these dark times. Coalition is somewhat needed, a reaction to our government and I only hope that Theatre 503 continues to produce such concepts – and if it can draw the likes of Sarah and Gordon Brown into the audience, I only hope it can send a message of it’s own to audiences too.

Coalition is playing at Theatre 503 until 5th December. For more information and to book tickets, see the website here.