Theatre Review – Waiting For Lefty by Clifford Odets
REVIEW By John Millington
“If they give us an inch, then we will be down on them like dogs.”
Union activist Agate.Fast paced, detailed and pulling no punches – this latest production of Waiting for Lefty is the perfect tonic for anyone looking for a cure to austerity. Set ostensibly in the US, the play revolves around an action packed union meeting of taxi drivers, with workers debating whether or not to go on strike. And if anyone thought they could take a neutral position on the matter, you would be wrong as the audience plays the part of the rank and file members who union activists are addressing. Utilising a minimal set with virtually no props or costumes, the young cast use their interaction and raw enthusiasm to suspend your disbelief. And it works brilliantly.
Each individual character’s personal story is told, along with their perspective on whether to take strike action over pay cuts and intimidation from bosses. The choice is simple: to go on strike or not? Stalking the room red hunter and leading anti-strike advocate and union leader the menacing Fatt (Jordan Lee) backed up by his henchman Gunman (Duke Duffy) argue strike action is not needed, decrying those who argue otherwise as “reds.” The play moves well between scenes and allows each actor to showcase their talent on a limited set. Stand out amongst them is Edna (Holly Mclay) the wife of one of the workers who is reluctant to go on strike. Her moving scene with her husband Joe (Dominic Morgan) shows how personal relationships can become strained when people are overworked and underpaid; putting to bed any suggestion that strike action is taken lightly by workers.
Leading the charge for strike Agate (Sid Phoenix) gets a punch for his trouble but unbowed and on hearing the fate of their union chairmanLefty, he leads the remaining workers in a chorus of “unite and fight – strike, strike, strike” Waiting for Lefty has everything – politics romance, dark humour and the courage to speak out and say rampant capitalism without the checks of trade unions holds only a bleak future for workers everywhere. It deserves a bigger stage and a tour.
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