THEATRE A Week with Tony, Finborough

Trash for starters, Tories for seconds: David Eldridge is serving it up again.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
One of the exhilaratingly large crop of promising playwrights in their early 20s, David Eldridge gave notice that he was a talent to watch earlier this year with Serving It Up, a toughly comic piece about aimless white trash youth. In his new play, A Week with Tony, he shifts his attention further up the social scale with a wily look at the Conservative middle classes as they brace themselves for a likely Labour election victory. This, of course, is a group that embraces both traditional (not to say genetic) Tories and the self-made men of the 1980s, many of them now unmade by the 1990s.

It's a point thrown into sharp relief here by the problems of Ric Morgan's Tony, an East End-born Thatcherite whom the recession has stripped of his new wealth and turned into a computer sales rep. His daughter Elizabeth (Celia Robertson) is engaged to the son of the rich, upper-class chairman of the local constituency. The lavish wedding, planned as "a real morale- booster" to the jittery Tory community, would once have been well within Tony's means and he can't persuade himself that a man of his former standing won't be able to call in a few debts. But he's credit black-listed, a fact he hides from his aggrieved ex-spouse (Di Langford), while demanding emotional support from his thirtysomething girlfriend. For her, though, his fantasy of funding an obscenely expensive wedding reception rubs in all the more cruelly his evasiveness on the subject of marriage to her.

It's an uneven play, but the bits that work really work, as is established by Mark Ravenhill's engaging (if uneven) staging. It shows you a Britain where men like Tony and Oxbridge-educated Roger (Keith Hazemore) find themselves displaced in the same boat, flogging "software solutions" which they don't really understand for sales companies that are too keen on the quickest and easiest profit to go in for software solutions themselves. It proposes a Britain, too, where both young Conservatives and young Socialists, like Oscar Pearce's leather-trousered Joseph, can't really imagine a Labour government surviving beyond one term.

Though the plot depends on it, I never really believed that women would still be so drawn sexually to Ric Morgan's otherwise adroitly acted Tony. But that it is prepared to think on this scale - and let's hope the cast of 13 never outnumber the audience - is a tribute to the Steam Industry's commitment to new writing and augurs well for next year's planned "States of the Nation" season.

To 7 July, Finborough Arms, Finborough Road, London SW10. Booking: 0171- 373 3842

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