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Fringe Online 2021

Contemporary political ethics (or, how to cheat)

Traverse Theatre Company

Genre: New Writing, Political

Venue: Traverse Theatre 3


Low Down

Kev is on probation from his University course and shall be spending it mainly in a polling station to witness democracy in action. Monitored or supervised, depending upon their point of view by a failed politician and a carer, Terry and Hannah, they try to educate Kev on just what a wonderful process, hanging about in a polling centre is and how you get to understand the process of choice and moral responsibility, especially when they find a forgotten ballot on the floor. As there are no witnesses, will the witless help a winner, win out?


This begins like a culture clash that is stereotypically about one generation not getting the other generation, ye get me bro? But it ain’t that at all.

In a subtle change part way through it transpires that Kev is a lot more than just someone failing his University course but an astute observer. Kev deserves the appropriate credit for saying what he sees and calling out what is not there. As a three handed piece that develops and grows, this works on many levels, not least as a commentary upon a process that has really had its form tested of late.

To return to the root of democracy – the simple ballot process – as a testing for an examination of the democratic process and our expectations of it allows the meaning of our civic society to become the fourth character in the comedy.

With the writing so sharp, the performances manage to equal it with style. It has a delicious sharpness that brought me back to consider the wider issues around us – can we really stand all of the pictures on the media pages and television screens before we respond with authoritarian outrage? In a very well-crafted way this asks us to realise that by challenging our own perceptions, it serves as a reminder of why we should cherish the system itself.

Jamie Cowan has achieved all of that in a simple tale, essentially very well told.

The audio works well too, as I got the audio whiff of a school hall abandoned by their usual inhabitants whilst the boredom of sitting and taking the ruler, asking for the reference number and marking people off manages to come across the headphones.

As an audio play, this was therefore a fitting medium and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a script it has some dips, only a few though, which a live audience would help to identify where those dips really are.

Traverse’s Breakfast Plays have always attracted my attention because I do think the idea of live readings makes better theatre. Whilst I may have missed my bacon roll, it reminded me of why it is that we should be back soon again in the same room, darkened to our eyes and with decent art in front of us. Wouldn’t be a bad thing to begin with this…