Now Or Later

Posted on: 09 October 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

This drama unfolds during election night in the U.S. when the results are rolling in.

No more topical play can currently be seen on the London stage than Christopher Shinn’s absorbing and provocative Now or Later, at the Royal Court, directed by Dominic Cooke.

It is election night in the US and things are looking rosy for the Democratic Party.  Holed up in a hotel watching the results flood in are the likely President-elect, his wife, advisors and twenty-year-old son, John Jnr.  Every speech, interview and photo call has been carefully controlled and meticulously orchestrated, all leading up to this big night.

Suddenly a problem arises.  Pictures of the gay John Jnr. dressed as the Muslim prophet Mohammad at a university ‘naked’ party and engaging in a simulated sex act are gathering momentum on the internet and Pakistan is on the verge of riots.

While his father’s advisors work against the clock on damage limitation, in particular getting John Jnr. to issue an apology, it finally comes down to father and son to try and reach an agreement.

Shinn’s short (75 minute) but sharp play examines freedom of speech versus Islamic Fundamentalism, tolerance and prejudice, gay civil partnerships and personal responsibility.  Shinn is particularly adept at exposing the ethical hypocrisies that often quietly define the lives of the privileged.

This is also a work which questions whether compromise is the best way out for political leaders to settle difficult issues.

However Shinn sticks resolutely to the middle ground, making sure the deck is equally stacked on both sides of the story and aligning himself with neither.

Director Dominic Cooke extracts excellent performances from his top flight cast, most notably Eddie Redmayne as John Jnr, Matthew Marsh as his power hungry father - the verbal sparring between father and son is electrifying - as well as Nancy Crane as the anxious wife and mother and Domhnall Gleeson as John Jnr.’s friend and co-participant at the controversial party.

Furthermore Hildegard Bechtler’s strikingly realistic set of a smart hotel room give the drama a truly authentic feel.

In short then this well written, well acted play certainly gets my vote of approval.

Laurence Green

Plays until 1st November 2008.

Booking Information

Box office: 020 7565 5000 or:

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