This play by Andy Barrett is a creative way of putting Tony Benn’s diaries, and therefore key parts of his life, on stage. I saw the one man performance by Philip Bretherton as Benn in a mostly empty theatre and thought it sad that people were missing out since these were the words of a man of integrity who believed that politics served the people.
I read all the published diaries over the years and I heard Tony Benn speak on several occasions, in halls and on rallies. He was the advocate of the causes I believed in and he was a voice of hope when electoral success was elusive. He reminded us never to give up hope but he also showed that standing by your principles is important especially when changing course to seek popular approval looks more inviting.
The play is structured around one night when Benn cannot sleep. In his study he shuffles through papers and listens to old tapes reminiscing about battles won and lost and people he knew who were part of the fight for social justice. Philip Bretherton has an approximation of the man who was well known to people on the left but the more he speaks Benn’s words, the more like him he grows.
I knew most of the anecdotes, knew the people he talked about, and knew the political events he remembered; I was aware of Tony Benn from the 70s onwards. For me, this was a fantastic evening in the theatre and it was so good to hear his words again. After the news from the USA this week, I wanted to remember politicians of integrity. Tony Benn was just such a politician.