Christopher Shinn's Now or Later has been getting glowing reviews, and an extended run, at the Royal Court. Highly topical, it takes place in about a month's time, at a hotel in America's South where the Democratic Presidential candidate (Matthew Marsh) is holed up as the results come in showing he's won. Events take place in real time in the room of his college student son John (Eddie Redmayne.) A couple of weeks earlier John went to a party dressed as the prophet Mohammed and pretended to give a blowjob to an Evangelist preacher. The pressure is now on for the campaign team to make him issue an apology, but things aren't that simple. John sees his actions as a protest against his fellow students who defend Islam while living lives that fundamentalists would condemn them for. By making these events unfold after the election's been won Shinn chooses to make the play about something more complicated than simply losing votes in the short term - how a scandal will affect John Sr's ability to govern at all. He also throws in more pertinent themes than I can mention in a short review, such as the different attitudes towards Christian and Islamic fundamentalism in US politics, and the personal issues behind these political machinations, without the story ever feeling swamped by them - instead you get a feeling of how intricately complicated things are for a Democrat hoping to get elected.. He occasionally falls into having the characters lecture each other on international affairs, but gets himself out of it quickly, and Dominic Cooke's production retains a hectic pace and keeps you involved throughout.
The performances are all excellent, and all the accents (most of the actors are British - only Marsh, as far as I'm aware, is really American) spot-on. In the central role Eddie Redmayne is fantastic, giving John not just an accent but a distinctive voice of his own (I was able to compare 'cause on my way out I passed Redmayne talking to someone, and his real voice is more of a drawl.) As John he gives a petulant, nasal, staccato performance that undercuts the sympathy you instinctively feel for him. It's implicit that his recent attention-seeking partly stems from his recent breakup with his boyfriend, and explicit that his problems with extremists of both relevant religions stems from their attitude to his sexuality, but despite his protestations you can't help but suspect that his actions belie a certain degree of racism. Plus, on telly Redmayne doesn't do much for me but in real life - WOULD, even if he does have Jagger lips. Also good is Domhnall Gleeson as Matt, John's out-of-his-depth friend who dressed as the evangelist at the party, and now finds himself at the middle of an election campaign. Nancy Crane gets a lot of laughs as Jessica, John's Hillary-alike mother. Overall a very gripping and entertaining look at what could have been a fairly dry topic.
Now or Later by Christopher Shinn is booking until the 1st of November at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.