The play is as facile as it thinks it is deep.
I find it hard to believe that the burghers of Chelsea are so politically and psychologically unaware that they can give Now or Later a thunderous ovation. Nevertheless, I was proved wrong last night as the play, which is as facile as it thinks it is deep, was sent off with plentiful applause.
Now or Later, by Christopher Shinn at the Royal Court, is set on American election night, as the son of the Democratic candidate sits in a hotel room, watching the results roll in and a scandal concerning him grow. He has been photographed dressed as Mohammed at a college party, and despite the entreaties of staffers, friends and family, refuses to back down.
These arguments form the body of the play, with characters tossing back and forth ideas of freedom of speech, religious and sexual equality and political principles. This would all be well and good if we had not already seen The West Wing, which did the exact same thing in greater depth with infinitely more style. This shallow man’s Republic wants to deal in heavy issues, yet it only does so in cliches and speciosity.
Eddie Redmayne, the rising star playing John, the gay pseudo-Mohammed, would have his talents served so much better if he had lines with intelligence. His ability is clear, and the final image of him looking out of a window, broken and tearful and reflected back at himself, is a powerful one, which he handles well. But to be left spouting commonplaces about Islamic fundamentalism and American hypocrisy is an error.
I wish I had returned to my DVD player and seen what real insight into American politics was like, courtesy of Aaron Sorkin and Martin Sheen, instead of having to wade through the treacle of contrived debate, courtesy of Christopher Shinn.