Worries about the ethics of policing the rest of the world? Concerns about scandals in our leaders' personal lives? Discomfort with the growing role of money and big business in politics? Sounds like a laundry list for a modern American political critic, doesn't it? It might be surprising to learn that this airing of dirty political laundry (and prediction of the future) was done by George Bernard Shaw in The Apple Cart, first published over 75 years ago, in 1929. His "political extravaganza" is being produced by Theater Ten Ten, and if you're a fan of the intricate playing of "the great game" of politics, then this uncannily pertinent classic may be worth taking a look at. Of course, Shaw's vision of the future in The Apple Cart sometimes flies a little wide of the mark. His future world has its share of misconceived predictions and even has a few features that are downright laughable today, such as the economic and military clout wielded by the League of Nations. Beyond just amusement, though, it's fascinating to look back at our past as seen in an earlier era's sense of the future, both for the perhaps understandable mistakes and, even more so, for the odd moments of eerie accuracy.
Shaw's fictional future chronicles the delicate maneuverings of the British cabinet and monarchy during a day of "crisis" for the country. King Magnus (Nicholas Martin-Smith) has offended the government by bringing his charismatic personality into an active role in politics. The debate rages over who truly rules in this democracy: the king, the government, the businessmen, or perhaps even (gasp) the people. Led by the prime minister (Damian Buzzerio), the bizarrely eccentric cabinet issues an ultimatum to the king, demanding that he become a constitutional monarch who only rubber-stamps legislation and lets his cabinet run the country "in the best interests of the people." If he refuses, they threaten to expose details of his less than saintly personal life to the press.
The Apple Cart is pure Shaw, top to bottom: the ideas fly thick and fast, while the dialogue slows to a crawl, with speeches bulky enough to choke a hungry elephant. Call it a comedy of ideologies