Best of Enemies, Young Vic

This was a very good play about the 1968 debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal. I knew nothing about the debates beforehand; according to the play, they were a seminal moment in TV history.

It’s very much a typical James Graham/Jeremy Herrin play: flashy and entertaining, fast-moving with lots of cutaways. It’s designed to be both fun and thought-provoking, a depressingly rare combo in modern theatre. Aside from a few overly didactic lines, the play leaves you to draw your own parallels between the past and the present. That isn’t particularly difficult as the similarities between now and 1968 are quite striking.

The acting is universally excellent, too. Casting a black actor (David Harewood) as William Buckley Jr. was clever. It makes it harder to immediately dismiss Buckley as a racist, and forces you to listen to his ideas. It helps that Harewood is very good in the role. But the highlight of the show is Syrus Lowe’s James Baldwin. In fact, his performance spurred me to go and read some Baldwin.

I have a feeling that this will transfer to the U.S. and be a big hit there. Note that I saw it in previews so things may change by the time it opens.

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