Socialist Worker

2nd May 1997 - Bush Theatre

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2170

The relationship of Will and Jake in 2nd May 1997 says a lot about New Labour	 (Pic: Simon Annand)

The relationship of Will and Jake in 2nd May 1997 says a lot about New Labour (Pic: Simon Annand)

Do you remember how it felt to wake up in 1997 with the bitter Tory years behind you?

This play is set in the evening of that general election and the morning after, but with the prospect of a Tory government around the corner, this is certainly more than nostalgia.

The action takes place through three scenes – each with a couple from a different generation and political background.

It opens with a senior Tory MP, only too aware that he is about to lose his seat, talking with his wife before heading to the election count.

This is a portrait of the political endgame – the MP is not just about to lose his seat, he has clearly lost his health, and to Tory HQ he is already a forgotten man.

The second scene involves a woman who has followed an uptight Lib Dem activist home from an election party. She is drunk and he is scared. The scene is extremely funny – though tinged with some tragedy.

The final scene of the play is the most powerful. Two young men wake up in bed together the morning after the election. They are both A level politics students and committed Labour supporters.

Clearly embarrassed, neither is able to express their feelings for each other and they stumble around while also celebrating the election results.

The boys’ youth – they are just about to leave home for university – is a reminder of how the election felt full of possibilities.

The pace is set by Jake who is from a wealthy family, superbly self assured and heading for Cambridge.

Shy working class Will – hoping to get into Leeds and become the first in his family to go to university – is more honest about his feelings but is brushed aside by Jake’s ambitions.

Cleverly, the contrast between the two shows some of the tensions that played out in New Labour.

2nd May 1997
Written by Jack Thorne
Bush Theatre, London,
until 10 October, then touring

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Article information

Tue 22 Sep 2009, 18:28 BST
Issue No. 2170
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