In a week when many theatres in England are preparing to open their doors again, it might seem a little perverse to be launching yet another digital production into the ether. But new company Two Lines Productions’ choice of Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty – as directed here by Phil Cheadle – feels like a real shot in the arm for anyone who might be feeling jaded about another Zoom play.
The structure of Odets’ play, centred around a union meeting, lends itself to this format (Cheadle wisely steering clear of any reference to Handforth Parish Council!). And as this group of cab drivers ferociously debate strike action for a living wage, we find ourselves fully immersed in proceedings in a radically different yet essentially quite similar way that resonates so powerfully at the play’s striking climax.
Shifting the play from its original Great Depression setting to the modern day feels like a natural fit, the cold stark hand of capitalism still crushing working people, even if in a different way now through the gig economy. And as short vignettes are peppered through the play, giving us context on why many of these people have been driven to the union, driven to the need to strike to have their voice heard, it is hard not to feel those resonances in your very core.
Cheadle’s production emphasises the liveness of the performance here, highlighting the rawness of the situation, the borderline desperation felt by so many. And he’s aided by a brilliant cast – Mariah Gale and Rebecca Scroggs, Philip Arditti and Charles Aitken plus many more – who do so much to bring a real sense of live theatre bursting through the screen. Not only that, each performance is followed by panel discussions which delve into a wide range of the issues discussed. Highly recommended.
Waiting for Lefty is streaming via Two Lines Productions until 23 May 2021.