Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Theatrical Red Rag to Incite Railway Rage; DAVID HARE'S BRILLIANT PORTRAYAL OF GREED AND A 'BOTCHED' PRIVATISATION

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Theatrical Red Rag to Incite Railway Rage; DAVID HARE'S BRILLIANT PORTRAYAL OF GREED AND A 'BOTCHED' PRIVATISATION

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

I cannot remember when I last left a theatre feeling in such a state of pure fury as I did after seeing The Permanent Way. I intend a compliment. David Hare's dramatised documentary about the privatising of the railways is a theatrical red rag of an occasion that incites us to become raging bulls, even though its characters never raise their voices and always speak in a cool, restrained style. The idea is to assemble evidence to demonstrate the botched, ideologically driven and dangerous state of our privatised railway system. Authentic eyeor heart-witness accounts of people bereaved or disfigured in train crashes lends the reinforcing bulwark of emotion.

Max Stafford-Clark's superbly acted production for his Out of Joint Company in association with the National Theatre steers an eloquent, revealing course through a shoal of facts and recollections. Mr Hare waves before our eyes the scandals of privatisation in an emotive and appalling survey of how successive governments thrust a new railway system upon us, whether we wanted it or not, and left us to suffer the bloody results while greedy bankers pocketed millions and ministers happily travelled on by chauffeur-driven limousine. So little for democracy.

Except when computerised graphics show video film of a train crash in slow motion, there is nothing spectacular, theatrical or revelatory about The Permanent Way. But as with Justifying War, the recent dramatisation of the Hutton Inquiry into David Kelly's death, a stage performance clarifies, vivifies and illuminates.

The production is based upon actors' interviews with unnamed people who are all linked to privatisation - from a High Powered Treasury Thinker and A Very Experienced Engineer to a Bereaved Mother. Hare has neatly woven these characters together, as if embroidering a great Victorian tapestry that illustrates How They Ruined Our Railways. …

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