If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep – Royal Court Theatre – review by Carole Woddis.

Anders Lustgarten is an anti-capitalist activist.  And playwright.  And this grandly titled assault on Coalition economic policy is but the latest in his campaign to open our eyes, not just to its iniquities but its illogicality.

Heartening as it is to see political opposition emerging and alternative views to the dominant austerity credo I’m not sure Lustgarten has quite got the hang of presenting an argument sufficiently theatrically.

Two years ago, at the height of the Arab Spring and occupations in Fortnum and Masons and later outside St Paul’s Cathedral, Theatre Uncut was born.  Eight short plays were presented in the vaults under London Bridge, taking the Coalition’s Cuts agenda apart in a blast of theatrical enterprise.  Playing simultaneously in dozens of different cities and across continents, the aim was and remains for theatre to react immediately to events.  Another batch of plays – which are also made available to anyone to perform – were delivered at the Young Vic at the end of last year.

One play, Lucy Kirkwood’s Housekeeping did a brilliant demolition job on the ethos of privatisation.  Lustgarten himself penned and performed a mind-bogglingly detailed critique of banking setting it surreally in Las Vegas.

If You Don’t Let Us Dream is set nearer home.  In government, on the streets, in prison and ultimately within a protest group, not a million miles one suspects from the anti-capitalist protesters in F&M and St Paul’s.

In an ironic twist on Cameron’s Big Society theme and yes, we are all connected to each other, Lustgarten weaves a kind of daisy chain of interlinking characters and connections building to a cliff hanging if not wholly satisfying climax.

Director Simon Godwin does his best to animate some rather turgid links and employs `big hitters’ in the shape of Meera Syal, the wonderful Zimbabwean actor Lucian Msamati  and Susan Brown to flesh out Lustgarten’s passionate debate.

Somehow though it never quite takes hold even if there is welcome eloquence to Lustgarten’s revelation that repaying national debts through laying austerity on its people actually goes against International Law.  It is not the People who have created the debt; it is the bankers and corporate capitalism.  Another idea voiced in the play regarding privatising prisons through incentivisation – the less the re-offending, the more the company is paid – is already with us.  Shortly Lustgarten suggests, `incentivising’ will be attached to general social disorder; investors will take out bonds.  The fewer the crimes, the more investors will earn.

In a sense, Kirkwood got there before him.  In Housekeeping, it was grannies and the sea that were sold off.  Don’t laugh.  It’s getting closer.

If you Don’t Let us Dream, We won’t Let You Sleep is at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs to March 9, 2013; see www.royalcourtheatre.com.

Carole Woddis © Feb 24, 2013.