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What Does Drama and the Box Set Tell Us About the State of Politics?

Is there anything to say in drama about politics when all the drama has been carefully squeezed out of real politics?

Is there anything to say in drama about politics when all the drama has been carefully squeezed out of real politics?

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 F**king Gnomes!

Perhaps because nothing original is being said in real politics that our interest in the political drama has quickened with Netflix's fabulous two series remake of House of Cards with Kevin Spacey as an ice-cold Richard III in the White House and Danish TV's Borgen series.

Politics too is back on the London stage in works like Don Patterson and Colin Swash's MPs expenses scandal farce The Duck House and Moira Bufferini's delightful doppelganger Handbagged on a decade of weekly audiences between the Queen and her only female Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher.

And then there is The Confessions of Gordon Brown, a darker juvenalian satire that I have written and directed that returns to the Ambassadors Theatre in June and July after sold out runs at the Edinburgh Festival and Trafalgar Studios.

The received wisdom is that anything to do with serious 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.

And to my own amazement The Confessions is genuinely laugh out loud funny, in parts.

Farce, as any actor can testify, is never far away from those who mount a public stage. So why should we not guffaw at the efforts of our rulers to dodge the genetic bullet with shoe lifts, hair transplants like Mr Berlusconi or baldies like the doomed William Hague.

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.

The Confessions of Gordon Brown, until 30 July at the Ambassadors Theatre, London. Box office: 0844 623 3030

And at 31 July - 25 August 2014 at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh. Box office: 0131 623 3030

facebook: /gordonconfesses