Review: Democracy at The Old Vic


Slick suits, cigarettes & red wine…

Welcome to 1970’s Germany.

Michael Frayn’s Democracy which originally debuted at the National in 2003 recreates a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective on the Guillaume affair that shook up German politics and contributed to the eventual collapse of the Berlin Wall and reformation of Germany. With all of its decadance, backchat & smiles between gritted teeth, we can identify this male-dominated world of politics in our very own system, where party politics are deemed as more important that the actual politics we demand of our MPs.

We can’t help but fall in love with the relationship formed between Gunter Guillaume and Willy Brandt. Credit to director Paul Miller for directing Aidan McArdle & Patrick Drury with an almost feminine sensitivity (something that seems rather alien within this very very manly production); we believe in the relationship just as much as Brandt does, and it is one of the few cases where we feel that the spy rather than being emotionally distant, becomes the emotional core of the production.

Although slow to start, the action picks up as the characters expose more of their personalities to us. Due to a combination of Frayn’s writing and Miller’s direction, one needs to tune into the ‘political broadcast’ nature of the delivered narrative and maintain an understanding of the external events so briefly described between dialogue. However, the gestures indicated throughout particular interactions speak so much volume of the relationships and personal politics, which translate through the entire theatre.

There are many moments where Frayn’s comedic moments shine and resonate with the audience. Combined with a slick set, it is a solid production which is definitely deserving of a watch.