London Spring (click on this link for the full theatre programme and venue)
Image a Britain where everything is privatised and the masses impoverished and brutalised. This is background to my partner in crime and fellow author Francis Beckett’s new play, The London Spring, now on at the Etcetra Theatre in the Oxford Arms,Camden.
Set in a transit lounge at Waterloo Station where wealthy Russian, American, Australian and Chinese tourists arrive in the UK it depicts the arrival of Michael, (Mike Duran) a naive but wealthy US medic, who is totally unaware of what a moral cesspit this country has become.
In a series of literally bruising encounters he learns that the privatised police force has to be regularly bribed to provide him with any protection. His suitcase will be nicked at the earliest opportunity, he will have bribe the competing down and outs just to go to the loo and if he steps out in the street to cross Hungerford Bridge he is likely to be mugged and robbed. His only safe way around London is in a tourist coach where he is carefully shepherded and protected by guides.
The picture is of country welcoming rich tourists and health tourists to see its sights, stay at its posh hotels and get state of the art medical treatment. But they are kept well clear of the locals.The Royal Free hospital in Hampstead ( which can already take 49 per cent private patients under Andrew Lansley’s reforms) is now owned by an American owned insurance company and only treats foreign patients and wealthy Brits.
The play is also an unrequited if a little improbable love affair between the American and down on her luck British trained doctor, Catherine (Suzanne Kendall). There is a superb performance from down and out revolutionary Trot, Jack (Michael Yale) who is both menacing and a good ranter. And Danny Kennedy, the security officer is a believable privatised Mr Plod.
It perhaps no coincidence that Francis lives in the London Borough of Barnet – or Broken Barnet as prolific and hard hitting blogger Mrs Angry calls it on her site – which is the Tories’ flagship authority for planning to privatise everything. In the real world it has already had a private security force, the now bankrupt MetPro, whose officials took secret photographs of its residents attending a council meeting approving cuts and has even been accused of driving around in fake police cars. They did not accept bribes though I have known private security officers in Britain accept bribes to allow people to park in private car parks when they can’t find anywhere else to park.
Its leading figure Brian Coleman, who harangues single mums, doesn’t believe in anyone else’s human rights and is on record in saying there is nothing that can’t be privatised, might be quite at home in this new brutal Britain.
The play ends with a demonstration growing across London as tens of thousands gather in Trafalgar Square knowing the authorities ( no doubt with Mr Coleman as chair of the privatised emergency services for the capital) will shoot demonstrators.
Fanciful you might think, but the play is running in a week when on BBC Newsnight Lord Lawson is calling for the retirement age to be raised to 80 and the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs wants the old age pension to be phased out and people forced to save from their meagre wages or starve.
Go, see this while it is on this weekend and next week. Perhaps Francis should invite Brian Coleman to see the nightmare results if his wet Tory dream goes wrong.