The State We’re In ***

Standing before a large collection of placards, posters, flags and political slogans that are set up within the shadow of Parliament, Tommy Price continues a relentless protest against the wars in the Middle East.  He has been there for years, away from his family, constantly attacked and the victim of growing legislation passed in order to silence him.

The State We’re In asks many questions about modern political life that really have no answer.  Chief among them, it asks at what price one is willing to give up personal freedoms for so-called promised security, and it also asks how much one should have to sacrifice for the freedoms of speech and protest.

This is writer Zia Trench’s first theatrical script, coming from a political journalistic background and having written for film and television before.  This is all evident, not only in the highly political nature of the piece but also in its episodic structure.  It’s a flawed script as much of the dialogue is preachy and the antagonist is very two-dimensional, but there are enough ideas and clever insights into modern Parliamentary procedure and the way that protest is currently treated that it is nonetheless a strong piece of writing.

And it is well acted.  Amaka Okafor makes for a voice of reason as inspiring journalist Carmel, Diana Walker does the best she can with the role of MP Gayle Saxton and Julie Higginson plays the long suffering wife well.  But the show hinges on the role of Tommy, and Michael Byrne’s performance is commanding.  He is able to play the multiple threads of Tommy: impassioned, angry, frustrated and a bit mad.  His soapbox stance can grate at times, but it’s hard not to side with him and his desire to simply make a stand against what he sees as a great evil.

The State We’re In is a very good political drama, making the audience actively question what is right and wrong when it comes to modern protest.  It also makes one think about all of the legislation that has recently been passed that is supposed to protect us.

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

Playing at the Assembly rooms at 12.10 until August 31.

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