A one-sided play that backfires spectacularly

I’m Not Running

Written by David Hare; directed by Neil Armfield

Ran at the Lytletton in the National Theatre until 31 January

In David Hare’s play, independent MP Pauline Gibson (Siân Brooke) faces the dilemma of whether or not to challenge insider Jack Gould (Alex Hassell) for the open leadership of the Labour Party. The situation is complicated by the fact that, as we learn in a series of flashbacks, Gibson and Gould have history. Not only were they romantically involved as students, but Gould was involved in the hospital closure that prompted Gibson to leave medicine and go into politics.

The first half of the play sets up some interesting questions. Is it better for policy to be made by experts from Westminster, or by those on the frontline? Is genuine political change a result of the actions of individuals or that of a wider movement? Has the political class become too hereditary and isolated from the rest of society?

Hare seems uninterested in providing any answers, however. Worse, he seems to forget the rule about making the opposing viewpoint in a debate as strong as possible, and opts to turn Gould into a caricature. Indeed, one gets the impression that Hare hasn’t quite got over a certain former prime minister. The one-sidedness backfires – by the end of the play you end up having a lot of sympathy for Gould, especially compared with his overly righteous rival.