In this time of political turmoil, asking yourself if those in charge of governments are the best person for the job becomes an almost daily occurrence.
This is perhaps why Gore Vidal‘s The Best Man is still relevant today. Despite being written in 1960, the fact that the author was heavily involved in American politics lends the piece a lot of value.
Two very different men are both running to be the Democratic representative. Secretary William Russell (Martin Shaw) claims to be above dirty political tricks and bribery; Senator Joseph Cantwell (Jeff Fahey) will stop at nothing to get his way.
However, as the race draws to its conclusion, both men are forced to take a long hard look at themselves and their family, to see what each of them is really made of.
The play opens in a beautiful hotel room. Indeed this is where all of the action takes place, although the room becomes occupied by a different person in each scene. Michael Taylor should be immensely proud of the set design as it is more memorable than the play itself.
The story is slow and as the end of Act I approaches there is no hint of any drama or event. Act II provides us with a slight turn of events, but nothing that wasn’t expected since before the interval.
The acting is strong, with a good supporting character for Maureen Lipman as Mrs Gamadge. Honeysuckle Weeks is almost unrecognisable as Mabel Cantwell, while Jack Shepherd is fantastic as ex-President Hockstader.
Despite the excellent cast and stunning set, The Best Man’s story is only mildly interesting and when the end finally comes, it is a merciful relief.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Tristram Kenton