A Most Pressing Issue

When Preston, the warden of an all-male prison, discovers his prison is on fire, does he have the time to tackle the blaze? Especially when his crush is on her way to make an inspection!

Joined by his trusted assistant Orly (Matt Williams), Celeste from HR (Natasha Mula), and the sergeant security officer, Preston slips around doing any work, and everyone else is reliant on him giving the orders.

This satirical comedy borders on a farce. Physical comedy is coupled beautifully with lines and characters deeply written by Tim Harris in collaboration with Matt Williams. The actors' physicality and use of props exaggerated their characters with comedic perfection, including nearly turning the front row of the audience into a splash zone and using suncream to try to dull the heat of a fire inside the warden's office.

This was ingenious and left the audience in stitches.

Considering the state of modern authority, it is clear how relevant a play about fools fumbling around in the height of their office, complaining about the heat, while below them are people trapped in their cells perishing in a fire is. This is an excellent example of playwrighting in the style of classic comedy shows, such as Fawlty Towers and Blackadder.

Presented by Half Diamond Theatre, A Most Pressing Issue draws clear parallels to modern culture and pokes fun at how those in power are too hesitant to get involved, even if it means everything around them is crumbling.

How can they put out the fire if they have a list of things to do that are always getting longer?

The constant avoidance of their most pressing issue and instead focusing on minute other details was an excellent premise to stage this narrative. Though the storyline could be more varied, there are enough moments and scenes to draw attention to the fact that the hour-long play rarely felt slow. Though there were a couple of pauses that lingered slightly too long, the scene quickly picked up pace again. The characters moved on to another ridiculous idea or train of thought rather than dealing with the issue.

Staged in the warden's office, with a desk and a few details to complete the picture, this black box studio was utilised well. The simple information allowed the focus to be on the cast and the details in their words.

Even in a moment of darkness, when the blaze cuts off the power, the actors' audible delivery was enough to encourage laughter. This is a testament to Preston and Orly, who were so secure in their characters that they provided comedy in the dark.

While the power was working, the lighting design was simple and incredibly effective. It allowed the office to be natural and then highlighted moments with a change. As the lighting rarely shifted, it provided deeper focus and let those moments of the play stand out.

The four-strong cast was excellent in delivering their mildly manic characters of authority figures. With none of the prisoners being represented, the audience only hears the stories of the inmates struggling in the blaze if it happens to come up in their superior's lives.

This concept leads to plenty of ethical conversations that are brisked through and laughed off as the audience sees the irony presented. It is easy to see the objective world comparisons that the writer is making.

A Most Pressing Issue is political satire hidden under overly dramatic comedy that is quintessentially British and brilliant theatre.

This show was reviewed at the New Wimbledon Theatre - Studio on the 14th March.  A Most Pressing Issue runs until the 16th March 2024.  Tickets available here: A Most Pressing Issue Tickets | Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre in Greater London | ATG Tickets

Review written by Ryan Lenney


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