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by on 23 October 2019

Parliamentary Backstop?


by Vaughan Evans

Krimson Kestrel at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 25th October

Review by Wendy Summers

Integrity – “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change” (Cambridge English Dictionary).

The action of this play occurs in the murky world of Westminster politics, where it would appear, “integrity” is a dirty word. Ostensibly a play about the 2010 Coalition Government and the Liberal Democrat’s policy on tuition fees, the play also tries to tap into the #MeToo movement that arose at the same time following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Somewhere along the line the tuition fee debate gets lost, forgotten or ignored in favour of playing up the “casting couch” and abuse of power themes.


Integrity debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018. It is perfect Fringe material; it deals with “issues”, has a fair amount of angst and lasted an hour. This new, full length version has, by the playwright’s own admission not been revised. Instead, a second act has been bolted onto the end to make room for an interval. And it doesn’t work. The first act is a complete play in itself and has a definite conclusion. Act Two meanders through “what has happened in the interim six years” without as much structure as the original piece and there is a lot of talk about characters and events unseen and previously unmentioned. In fact I completely missed that there was a further two year time lapse in Act Two until I re-read the programme.


The play is directed by the author, who also appears on stage as one of the man protagonists. This multi-tasking, although admirable – and understandable – to entrust one’s “baby” to the care of another is difficult – is sadly to the play’s detriment. The cast are all capable actors and work very hard to breathe life into their characters but their performances suffer from direction by someone who is both too close to the piece and unable to give the cast his full attention as he is also performing and can never see the whole picture. Thus, Clare Farrow’s Vicky plays the entire piece as a femme fatale, which takes away any element of surprise when she is revealed as a sexual predator and Francesca Stone’s Tanya is glamorous, knowing and manipulative, but much of her dialogue is lost in the delivery, which could have been easily fixed by someone “out front” really listening to what she is saying. As Evan, Evans himself is sympathetic but could do with a little more “edge” as the play progresses and Richard Scott does a good job with George, the chauvinist who in the end shows himself to have the closest thing to integrity of anyone in the play. The fun second act cameos by Marie Bushell and Jenni Fownes brought some much-needed light relief.


Krimson Kestrel’s production values are excellent. It is an uncommon pleasure to see a black box space used effectively with minimal furniture and the lighting and sound effects are effective and unobtrusive at the same time. Scene changes are slick and fast.

In summary, this is an interesting piece that tackles the issue of power and corruption well. Sometimes it is a little heavy handed, but the first half is thought provoking and well-constructed. A little more thought on how best to expand that initial hour would serve the piece well.

Wendy Summers
October 2019

Photography courtesy of Krimson Kestrel

One Comment
  1. Barbara Dwyer permalink

    A bit harsh. Judged by the audience reaction the whole of the play was very well received

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