The Independent London Newspaper

 

Drama highlighting Lib Dem-Tory tensions at the top wins West End outing

Fictional Lib Dem leader not based on Nick Clegg

A Labour politician who cannot wait for Coalition to succeed

Diana Quick and author Robert Khan

Published: Janaury 20, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON

POLITICS, the rather cruel saying goes, is showbusiness for ugly people; which is perhaps why so many ex-politicians end up on entertainment shows such as Have I Got News for You or Strictly Come Dancing – they do like the limelight.

One of Islington’s new councillors is taking a different route to the stage, however. Robert Khan, a Labour councillor elected last year, is also a playwright.

A play he co-wrote with his friend Tom Salinsky – who runs a comedy improvisation company called the Spontaneity Shop – will debut at Leicester Square Theatre tonight (Friday) and star Diana Quick, whose best-known TV role was as Lady Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.

In the play, Coalition, Cllr Khan and his co-writer consult their crystal ball to examine the state of the government in 2015.

“I’ve been writing as a hobby and I’ve always been interested in politics,” he says. “We just thought that the coalition and the tension between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories is conflict, and in conflict there’s drama so we thought it might be interesting.”

The satire, set six months before the next General Election is due, takes a look at fictional Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Max Cooper, who finds his party is falling apart at the seams.

He hasn’t spoken to the Tory leader for months, the economy hasn’t recovered and his MPs are threatening to jump ship. To save the Lib Dem day, Cooper – played by Thom Tuck, nominated best newcomer at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – has to take a series of make-or-break gambles.

Cllr Khan, who chairs the council’s planning committee, says that he “hopes” he’s managed to put his political partisanship to one side but his years in the business have provided him with a few useful inside sources.

“I’m a councillor and I’ve been involved in politics for 15 years,” Cllr Khan, 40, adds. “I’ve made a few contacts here and there. I couldn’t possibly say who. I hope there’s some humour in there too. It’s a character-based play.”

Coalition isn’t quite finished. Its three nights at the Leicester Square Theatre are a rehearsed reading after which Cllr Khan says they may rewrite and hope to find a producer to mount a full production.

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