The Best Man – Gore Vidal
Theatre Royal Bath
The Best Man, originally written to parallel Kennedy’s 1960 Democratic Convention, is a play that highlights how ruthless ambition can quash integrity and honour when it comes to electing the Best Man for President, making it as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago.
The script is both acerbic and witty. Sparks fly with beautifully crafted dialogue and the stellar cast make the most of every opportunity.
Set in a Philadelphia hotel, the two leading democratic candidates are fighting to get to the White House. The audience watch the private meetings, the dynamics of relationships and the interactions with friends, spouses and allies. As expected there are skeletons in the closets and neither candidate is without a blemish. The discussion is simply who is the “best man” for the job.
Williams Russell (Martin Shaw) and Joseph Cantwell (Jeff Fahey) are superb as the opposing candidates. The stage belongs to the Ex-President Hockstander (Jack Shepherd) whose weathered appearance and laconic delivery reflects on whether integrity could stop Russell being President and the brutal Cantwell alongside his ruthless spouse (Honeysuckle Weeks) should rise to power.
The play twists and turns whilst the usual dirty tactics are rarely far from the surface. It is hard to believe that this is not a new play given the recent events in the USA. Or a more sobering thought is that politics remain corrupt whilst the world carries on and Vidal’s play has found a new audience some 50 years on.
**** – 4 Stars