Review: Now Or Later

By John Nathan, September 19, 2008

Royal Court, London SW1

Election night in America. The Democrats are getting closer to victory. With only a couple of months to go before the real thing, this is the Royal Court's attempt at relevant theatre.

And although the Democrat candidate here is white and much more like Bill Clinton than Barack Obama, this tense drama by American writer Christopher Shinn is very relevant indeed.

The setting is a bland bedroom in the Democrat's hotel where Ivy League student John (Eddie Redmayne) and his friend Matt (Domhnall Gleeson) are following on TV and online the bid by John's dad to become leader of the free world.

But there is an internet-fuelled scandal brewing about video footage of John at a nude college party that he gatecrashed dressed as Mohammed. The Democrat party and the next President (Matthew Marsh) want John to publicly apologise.

But we are not talking about Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi here. The political motive behind John's jape was to expose the hypocrisy of his peers on campus who defend Muslim sensitivities by attacking American values, and then throw the kind of party that in many Islamic societies would be punishable by death. The fact that John would be hanged in Iran for being gay loads his arguments even more.

This is a play, tightly directed by Dominic Cooke, about the clash of Islamic, liberal and, where Shinn examines the father-son relationship, family values. It may be verbose, but it is thrillingly articulate. And thanks to Redmayne's excellent performance, moving too. (Tel: 020 7565 5000)

Last updated: 2:10pm, September 18 2008