Sunday, June 16

Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets – Two Line Productions

Written in 1935, during the depression, this play was inspired by a real life strike of cab drivers in New York in 1934. On its first performance one critic said it caused, “joyous fervour” amongst the audience.

The drivers in the play are overworked and underpaid by their bosses. Their wives and kids are suffering and they are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. They are stuck in a metaphorical traffic jam unable to move forward with their lives.

The characters are trapped and looking for a way out. One of the characters says, “The cards is stacked for all of us.” The game they feel is fixed against them and unless they try and change the rules of the game they will be stuck there forever. A ruthless capitalist emphasises the conflict by saying, “If big business went sentimental over human life it wouldn’t be big business at all.”

Interestingly, the conflict within the play is not simply confined to the struggle between the workers and their bosses. There are conflicts between the workers over the effectiveness of their union. Emotions are becoming febrile. They are waiting for their chairman Lefty to lead them to the promised land. But where is Lefty?

It is a deeply affecting and effective play. Written with zeal and feeling but also there is a muscular romanticism within the dialogue which makes it heartbreakingly human and real. Political plays can often fall into the trap of being preachy. This play, by foregrounding its humanity, made you care about the characters and their plight. It is not subtle or nuanced, you know exactly what it is trying to say, but given the time it was written I don’t think subtlety was required.

The story is told through seven vignettes. It is bookended by two union meetings. In between are scenes highlighting the stresses and strains caused by the inequality and inhumanity of the system.

This episodic format was perfect for a zoom play. Apart from the meeting scenes all the others were two or three handers. Cleverly they used multi-cameras to make the scenes look more interesting. It was technically superb and having performed in a zoom play myself I know that a lot of hard work is needed behind the scenes to make everything look so slick.

It was powerfully acted by the whole cast with a lot of passion and energy. Lisa Caruccio Came as Edna, was fierce and fiery as she tries to get her husband Joe to fight back against the bosses and for his family.

There is a deeply affecting scene between Rhys Rusbatch as Sid and Mariah Gale as Florence. They have been engaged for three years and they are both lost, beaten down by the system, seeking love and a way to escape.

After the play there was an interesting discussion about the themes of the play and how they reflect today’s world. With the recent victory for Uber drivers in the courts in some ways it could be said that things have not changed that much, as it would seem that cab drivers are still having to fight for their rights.

I would definitely recommend this play and it is on zoom till the 23rd May.

Reviewer: Adam Williams

Reviewed: 18th May 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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