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Is There Anything to Say in Drama About Politics When All the Drama Has Been Carefully Squeezed Out of Real Politics?

23/07/2013 14:51 BST | Updated 22/09/2013 10:12 BST

In the olden days before catch up TV the annual Labour and Tory party conferences were guaranteed political barn fests. Revolts amongst the delegates, errant trade union bosses, and pro-hanging would-be Tory MPs were as commonplace as bare breasted women in HBO's Games of Thrones. Passion and politics mattered.

But post New Labour, bar the odd MP expenses scandal, politics has become a far more constrained art. Shut your eyes and it's hard to tell whether or not it is a Tory or a Labour MP urging on more austerity. Even with your eyes open the uniform, mid-middle-aged, mostly male, always suited and supinely reasoned, is interchangeable. The old joke runs true: British Politics - Hollywood for gnomes!

Perhaps it is because nothing original is being said in real politics that our interest in the political drama has quickened with Netflix's fabulous remake of House of Cards and Danish TV's Borgen series. In London this summer there has been a small spate of ensemble fringe plays, Blair's Children at the Cockpit and Thatcherwrite at Battersea503 commemorating the fall and rise of two significant political icons. And James Graham's epic at the National This House on the travails of the Labour Whips in holding their minority government in power from 1974-1979.

And then there is The Confessions of Gordon Brown, a play that I have written and directed that receives its world premiere at the Edinburgh festival in August and then on to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton in September.

Ironically our attempts to place an advert in the Labour Party Conference Magazine triggered a real act of politics. And the play was promptly banned by the Labour Party as if somehow a one-man stage play about politics would undermine their far greater theatrical efforts in persuading the nation that Ed Miliband is our next Prime Minister.

The received wisdom on how to make a small fortune in the theatre business is to begin with a large one. And that anything to do with politics and Gordon Brown in particular is the kiss of death.

So why am I doing it?

The answer is because in a very old fashioned way I believe it is important and that a figure like Gordon Brown, a great man fallen, is the real meat of drama that helps us understand our own world.

Brown was our greatest failure as Prime Minister in 200 years and the fusion of his qualities, intellect, paranoia, lack of avarice, astonishing work ethic, suspicion, culture and indecision made him thoroughly and almost mysteriously unsuited for the office of Downing Street. If only he could have relaxed like Dave with a Nintendo DS.

As Prime Minister, Brown strove manically to overcome his perceived deficits by re-engineering his public image via focus group findings, marginal polling, getting his teeth done and investing, by the look of the TV pictures, in hair gel. Farce, as any actor can testify, is never far away from those who mount a public stage.

But The Confessions is only part comedy. Brown had an awesome will-to-power to become the Leader and yet even in office the prize eluded him. His path to power was a real life Game of Thrones and as it turned out a tragedy and the play reflects that fall.

The Confessions is an attempt through drama to reach beyond the daily score count of political journalism and see those we choose to be our leaders divested of the screens of power.

But also to see ourselves as the Led. In reality 96% of the population will never attend a political meeting, read an election manifesto or touch the hand of their future ruler. Most of our decision making in the electoral booth will be guided by complex psychological preferences - Golden Rule Number Two is that the People Will Not Vote for Baldies! - and instinct. What our rulers look like is far more important than what they say.

Who we choose to rule over us, and why, is a perennial and essential question for all of us.

And so is the canvas of power for drama in a real life world where men and women strive to rise, rule and control the destiny of a nation. And then fall like Lucifer.

Kevin Toolis is a writer and film producer of the C4 MI5 spy thriller Complicit

The Confessions of Brown tour dates:

The Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh from July 31st - August 26th. Tickets at www.pleasance.co.uk/edinburgh/events/the-confessions-of-gordon-brown

Trafalgar Studios London 3rd Sept - 28th Sept. Tickets at www.atgtickets.com/venues/trafalgar-studios/

Labour Party Conference, Brighton 22nd-24th Sept. Tickets at www.gordonconfesses.com

More info at:

www.gordonconfesses.com

Facebook: /gordonconfesses

Twitter: @GordonConfesses

More videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJZbi5vYg-w

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