Radical theatre classic Waiting For Lefty has been given an inspiring revival
When I read in the Morning Star that this new production of Waiting For Lefty - shockingly the first in London for over 30 years - had been given a modern-day setting, I was a little concerned.
With another of capitalism's crises leading to yet another assault on wages and workers' rights no audience needs the enduring resonances of this seminal play spelt out for them.
So it's a relief that this production, save for a couple of allusions to Obama and the use of an iPhone, is fairly faithful to Clifford Odets's 1935 script.
Radical in form as well as content, the play centres on a union meeting into which the audience is immediately thrown.
Making full use of the intimate space of the White Bear, this immersive element is particularly well executed as actors mingle with audience.
As they shout their support or give their tuppenorth's worth the feel of a heated union meeting is authentically captured as the cynical official Fatt argues for appeasement with the bosses and passive acceptance of conditions.
But his warnings against the need for industrial action do not ring true with the experiences of the workers he fails to represent.
Joe, barely able to feed his family, is told by his wife to fight for better pay or lose her.
Young Sid's inability to find work has destroyed his morale and drives him away from the sweetheart he can't afford to marry.
A scientist refuses to work on poison gas and spy on her colleagues, while a doctor is horrified by the slapdash treatment he sees given to poor patients.
In offering these incisive snapshots of workers' lives, Odets's play demonstrates how managerial interference, job insecurity and low wages have a very real, human impact.
Instead of waiting for the elusive Lefty Costello to save them or capitulating to the bosses, stooges and lackeys, the connections between people's struggles and the pressing need for united and organised action becomes increasingly apparent.
This message is done a service by both the young, enthusiastic cast and director Christopher Emms.
It's easy to see why he was inspired to stage this important play 75 years after the pioneering Unity Theatre brought it to British audiences for the first time.
Odets was an important figure in US workers' theatre and this pertinent production shows that, like Lefty, there is no point waiting around for the major theatres to revive his politically driven, socially aware early work.