The Fix

Theatre, Musicals
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The Union christens its new home with a saucy political satire

As American political affairs increasingly feel like someone’s lost control of a script, this revival of director Michael Strassen’s production of ‘The Fix’ feels timely. First staged at the Union Theatre in 2012, its partially re-cast reprise ushers in the Union’s new era at a venue across the street from the old one.

But John Dempsey’s and Dana P. Rowe’s musical, which debuted at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997 in the middle of Bill Clinton’s presidency, also feels a lot like a period piece in these social-media savvy, Donald Trump days. Its pre-internet dynastic power games prove that satire blunts quickly.

Strassen sensibly confronts this head on by giving everything a Sixties, Kennedy-style look, as Violet Chandler calculatedly manoeuvres and shapes her reluctant son, Cal, into presidential material after her last candidate for the job – her senator husband – dies while bonking his mistress.

From stiff corpses to press conferences, Strassen drapes everything in stars and stripes. And he feeds the colours of the American flag into the lighting – ambition and corruption filtered through red, white and blue. So it’s a shame that the first half – a kind of ‘House of Cards’ meets ‘My Fair Lady’ – feels leaden, hitting plenty of predictable beats.

There’s also the problem that, as Cal, Fra Fee is an underpowered presence, his singing voice – unlike the rest of the strong ensemble cast – fading away when he goes for the high notes. His character is supposed to be ill-suited to his mother’s plans, but he doesn’t leave much of an impression as either a pawn or the drug addict he becomes.

There’s much talk of king making here, but the court is far more interesting than the throne. From the music to Strassen’s choreography, everything bursts into darkly comic life in the second half, which focuses on Violet’s poisonous relationship with scheming brother-in-law, Grahame.

Droll, damaged and ruthless, Lucy Williamson, as Violet, chomps through the scenery and emerges as the best thing about this production by a clear mile. She and Ken Christiansen’s embittered, crippled Grahame get the best songs and lines, as ‘The Fix’ reframes its by-numbers political jibes as deliciously grotesque family drama.     

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