Secretary-General’s Review – Satire of world politics misses its mark | Step
WIt may be that all, locked up, fall prey to a feeling of helplessness. In response, Georgie Thomas and Cassie Symes, aka the Thick’n’Fast duo, took to the other extreme, imagining themselves ‘kings of the world’, in Boris Johnson’s formulation – or queens of the world, given that Symes and Thomas view global leadership through a female lens. In this play, broadcast nightly from Applecart Arts, the couple are gifted with a sudden proficiency in world affairs. So what would they do – what would any of us do?
It’s a catchy premise – but the Secretary General isn’t making the most of it. There are entertaining moments, as the duo send off their own naivety – and vulnerability to the seductions of power. They play multiple roles as newsreaders, tech supremo, and two mouth-watering YouTube influencers. The edit sequence that shows our fish-out-of-the-water heroines mocking geopolitics is well done, as it pushes back Michelle Obama’s incoming calls and introduces a “reciprocal orgasm tax” to penalize bad sex.
But ultimately, this potential satire has little to say about our failing systems of governance or why even the best political intentions seem to falter. The secretary general too often appears as a first project. Right off the bat, when the UN’s decision to give them power remains totally unexplained, the show feels articulated, its plot relaxed and cartoonish even when the performances threaten something more nuanced. The series’ ear for media and political discourse is not keen enough, and the comic potential of the shock (more visible on screen than it could be on stage) between low production values and ambitions straddling the world is not exploited.
The Satire Detector flashes as Symes and Thomas blame Silicon Valley for the rookie rulers’ descent into tyranny. But this idea is left very vague, because peace in the world is ensured by a comic song without distinction which concludes the show. In a time when opportunities for living artists are scarce, you can forgive Symes and Thomas for dreaming for themselves the greatest opportunity imaginable. But this is not really captured in this very sympathetic but light political fantasy.