There is very little of merit in Oxford IPlayer’s production of On the Line, a new political satire about a Muslim MP embroiled in controversy over plans for the laying of a new railway line through Slough’s local mosque. For a start the play is showing at the Wadham Moser, which, as we all know, is just a glorified badminton court. The writing, when it is funny (which is nothing more than a smirk) relies on stereotype. The Imam, played by Ibrahim Khan, provides most of these comic moments, and his strength of characterisation gives a welcome relief to the abysmal crowd acting and those characters who have been directed to, or just do for whatever reason, shout all of the time, not least Frank, played by Khushall Ved. The acting thus offers little nuance or originality, although there is a glimmer of hope in Miles Lawrence, playing Walter. It is just a shame that he is given such a drab part- not that any other role would howevever have showcased his talent any better. Indeed, I often get the feeling that the actors are just playing older versions of (or just) themselves.
Scene changes are clumsy, and take far too long, with actors even tripping over the items of set in the dark. Lighting cues are not known, even when it is just a case of lighting one side of the stage, and then the other, and the set, which is just office junk, cheapens the whole performance. Moreover, lines are often fluffed, cues missed and attempts within the script to be profound and meaningful, such as the final line of “Politics. Fucking politics’ or something to that affect, just fall flat. In all, the performance just smacks of amateurishness. I hope things like this will improve over the run, indeed, I was told before the show that the performance had been made leaner after a bad preview (didn’t fill me with confidence it has to be said). Although it is true that the performance now romps along well enough, I am afraid more work still needs to be done to really fill this play’s potential.