TONY Benn was one of this country’s most forthright politicians. Whether you agreed or disagreed with him politically – and plenty didn’t – there was no doubting his conviction on those matters that he felt were important.
As well as being staunchly left wing, throughout his long life he was also a prolific diarist and it is these published diaries that have formed the basis of a one-man play about him.
Written by Andy Barrett and starring Philip Bretherton as Benn, it is currently on at the Bridge House Theatre in Penge.
The stage has been transformed into Benn’s study and it is here late one night that he comes shuffling in with a huge mug of tea to record one last tape for his diary.
As he switches on at least four tape recorders – presumably as a back up in case one of them fails – he begins to try and write something for a funeral he is due to speak at.
We see him try, and fail, to come up with a joke he has not previously done at a previous funeral, in between which he munches on a banana or two and judges the merits of eating too much potassium, attempts to change a light bulb, reminisces about his life in politics, including his less than favourable views on Tony Blair and speaks with pride about his family.
While he doesn’t try to do an impression, Bretherton does get the essence of Benn spot on with the looks he gives, the accent, his passion and the wonderful sense of humour he clearly had.
We also see his vulnerable side with Bretherton showing Benn as a sensitive fellow, particularly when he speaks to his dead wife Caroline – the sadness at losing her is there for all to see and hear.
But we are also reminded of the fire within him as he rails against some of the decisions taken by his former political colleagues on both sides of the House.
It is a fascinating play, brilliantly staged and with a superb performance by Philip Bretherton who reminds us that politicians of Benn’s standing are a rare breed.
Tony's Last Tape is on at the Bridge House Theatre, Penge until May 17. Tickets from £12. Visit www.bhtheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 020 8133 0311.