Book Review

The Angry Brigade by James Graham

eww i read some centrist art by mistake

It’s been a while since I’ve read a play, and though I don’t really understand the continuing existence of the theatre (surely any script worth acting out is worth acting out with cameras in the room and then watched at a place and time of the viewers discretion, convenience, and comfort???), in this short Angry Brigade-focused week (the Angry Brigade were Britain’s most middle class terrorist organisation (so far)) I thought I should have a look at this recent (well, 2014/2015) play by James Graham, writer of the famous political play (which I of course haven’t seen) This House.

Because The Angry Brigade is a play, I shouldn’t have been surprised by its overwhelmingly saccharine and centrist conclusions and ideologies.

Not only does Graham choose to dramatise the police officers trying to capture the Angry Brigade prior to dramatising the anarchists themselves (although he does offer a note saying the two acts maybe performed in any order (there are two options) or even simultaneously (insert eyeroll emoji)), he presents the police officers far more sympathetically and offers far more nuance and complexity to their characterisation. Graham’s Angry Brigade are nothing other than bitter, delusional fools.

Had I bothered to look up the playwright before purchasing the play, I would have seen that Graham’s establishment credentials and fawning thematic interest in the establishment would render him an utterly unsuitable person to offer a progressive and engaging exploration of ideological desperation and the dangers of societal collapse.

By the end of the first act, the police are smoking doobies and having intradepartmental orgies, just as by the end of the second act, the Angry Brigade are yearning for nuclear families and stable marriages. 

Graham’s blunt New Labour/Cameronian neoliberal agenda drowns out any interesting take on social iniquity, crowing that the middle way – not caring who fucks who literally or who fucks who economically – is not just a good compromise but an inevitable and desired outcome (insert another eyeroll emoji).

The world’s a fucking mess, and sympathetically humanising police while failing to sympathetically humanise people who admittedly went too far in their well-intentioned fight against structurally corrupt hegemonic oppression is a fucking lazy thing to do: intellectually lazy, creatively lazy and ethically lazy.

Like most things written for a theatre – rather than a general – audience, this is a text that genuinely believes there is no better future worth trying for, let alone fighting for.

The reason why Tories – and by that I do do do (and we must) include “liberals” – are so fucking charmless is because of their paucity of imagination. They do not see a possibility for a better world. 

Fuck ’em. We can – and must – do better.

4 comments on “The Angry Brigade by James Graham

  1. Instead of setting bombs in military recruiting offices and the like (after hours let’s note, because this was still an age of rare 24-7 labour, so they would be unmanned except maybe by a security guard), THE AB should have let off bombs in theatres…. Just sayin’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I should have added that theatre in the 70s was dominated by Marxist playwrights like David Edgar, Howard Brenton, Trevor Griffiths, David Hare and the like, but their plays were awful pieces of drama as characters all represented political positions and lectured one another (and the audience), usually at a dinner party. The one honourable exception was Trevor Griffiths’ plat “Comedians” which I can highly recommend, especially if you can watch it
    on YT or somewhere, starring Jonathan Price.

    Liked by 1 person

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