Theatre Review: Obama On My Mind @ Hen and Chickens Theatre

By Zoe Craig Last edited 120 months ago
Theatre Review: Obama On My Mind @ Hen and Chickens Theatre

Obama On My Mind plays the Hen and Chickens Theatre until 21 March
"We've had so much press interest in this," giggled someone front of house at last night's press view of Obama On My Mind at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Highbury. You don't say.

Obama The Musical, whatever form it was going to take, has long been speculated about. After last night, knowing the fuss about the man won't die down, I wonder how just how quickly the interest in this particular show will.

The writer of Obama On My Mind, Teddy Hayes, was inspired to write a musical about Obama not, it seems, by Google hits and press coverage, but by "the type of people who get involved in political campaigns." If alarm bells aren't ringing for you yet, perhaps they should be.

So, this isn't a musical about Obama. It's about types of people. Or stereotypes, if you will. Here's Stressed Mom singing a song about being the Perfect Organizer. There's Batty Old Woman; Young Hippy; this guy's Big, Black, Gentle, and Troubled. Here's Serious Student, Ambitious Businessman, Sexy Young Girl. (She sings a red-lit number where she gets to bend her knees seductively, like a Sugababe, and pretend to have phone sex.)

There seems to be hundreds of them (there's actually only about a dozen), all very quickly, and roughly drawn with extremely broad strokes. The characters rarely even mention the man they're working for, the feelings he inspires, the hope, the change, the yes we can.

Despite the best intentions of a varyingly talented cast (many of them are fab, a couple are not), it's hard to sympathise with any of them, or start to care where their stories are heading...

Because Obama On My Mind reminded us of last year's failed West End show, Imagine This. Like the doomed show, dubbed the Holocaust musical, this, the Obama musical suffers from that awkward drama-killer, a foregone conclusion. We all know what's going to happen.

There are several attempts to inject some tension into the proceedings; a mole in the camp, a feud with a local journalist, a love-affair, a troubled fund raising event, a prohibitive policeman. When they decide to "put on a show!" (to raise desperately needed money for the Obama campaign, something we were never aware he was short of), another parallel with Imagine This, you suddenly feel that, inside this black box above a dark little pub in grimy north London, listening to stilted, scripted speeches with nothing to do with politics, by people you don't know enough about to feel for, you're about as far away from the Obama Campaign as it's possible to be.

It's not subtle and it's not clever. But it's got some nice tunes, and it's lots of fun.

But it certainly isn't about Barack Obama.

Just as they sing and dance about putting lipstick on a pig, and it's still a pig, so you can namecheck the most powerful man in the world in your musical's title and put a caricature of him on the poster, and the musical's still a ropey, politics-lite, caricature study.

Obama On My Mind is at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Highbury until 21 March. Tickets: £12. Box Office: 020 7704 2001.

Last Updated 06 March 2009