The Kennedy Myth is so vast, so complex and so open to interpretation (from a utopian Camelot to its dystopian opposite favoured by Christopher Hitchens) that it’s no surprise to feel it bursting through the narrative of The Fix (at the Union Theatre until July 14). Sitting next to my 15 year-old son, I fought the urge to whisper, “That’s Jack. That’s Bobby. That’s Teddy. That’s Rose. That’s Joe. That’s Marilyn” as this epic musical drove towards its scary denouement. Of course, it’s none of them exactly – just a pick-and-mix selection of The Kennedy Myth’s stories appropriated to drive the drama.
And what drama! The Fix is a political, sexual and musical rollercoaster ride from the moment Senator Reed Chandler expires (under the Stars and Stripes: in flagrante delicto) and his ambitious wife Violet and scheming brother Grahame turn their attentions to Violet’s son, Cal. The older pair, driven by Shakespearean levels of ambition and hubris, essay a Pygmalionesque transformation on Cal, to lift him from poor little rich kid to President Of The United States of America. To some extent, they succeed – until Cal’s true nature can no longer be hidden and his debts to temptation and, in consequence, to Grahame’s fixers, must be paid.
The ensemble cast spray the emotion all around this intimate theatre, supported by some wonderful set-pieces (Reed and Grahame’s “Two Guys at Harvard” suggests a bit of Frank and Gene in On The Town) and some supercharged acting. Liz May Brice’s Violet alternates between seductress and dictator, before showing us her sadness, and, chillingly, finally, her unextinguisable self-belief. Miles Western’s Grahame is funny and clever – but shot through by the kind of amoral genius that fired Josef Goebbels, whom he resembles in his look and his defining disability. Louis Maskell’s Cal is tragically susceptible to appeals to his vanity, but even his strong performance is trumped by Daisy Tonge as his mistress Tina, a flower-child stripper / ingenue with a beautiful singing voice and an electric connection with the audience.
The Fix is an outrageously ambitious play to stage in this space, maybe flags a little in the second half and portrays the democratic process as irretrievably stuck in the sweaty palms of cynics and crooks. It’s also a remarkable example of the power of musical theatre, when staged with this confidence and by actors of such consummate skills, to entertain, educate and enthral. It’s not Evita – it’s something much darker, much funnier, much better.
(Photograph Roy Tan)