LONDON – Waiting for Lefty is a well-known piece of agitprop theatre, written in 1935 when America was in the midst of the Great Depression and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. The play centres around a cab drivers’ union meeting, the drivers are fiercely debating strike action to get a living wage. The union meeting is punctured by four vignette scenes, where the personal costs of capitalism on the ordinary man are laid bare. Emerging from the global pandemic, the UK faces a deep recession that could rival the Great Depression, with unemployment expected to triple, and, like in 1935, we’re struggling to see the light. Against this backdrop, Waiting for Lefty holds a spotlight up to our current society and challenges us to ask why, in 2021, is capitalism still inflicting such a high personal cost on the ordinary man?
Transporting the play to 2021, the cab drivers conduct their union meeting on Zoom, with audience members becoming part of that meeting, making them participants as well as observers in a cross between theatre and fly-on-the-wall documentary.
Each night the play is followed by a panel discussion from thought leaders in Trade Unionists, academics, authors and journalists including Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar (ADCU President and General Sec, the lead claimants in the recent Supreme Court case involving Uber), Stella Creasy MP, Sarah Jaffe (author of Work Won’t Love You Back), and Alex Andreou (Actor, political commentator and Oh God What Now podcast co-host). These experts will discuss themes in the play and how they relate to modern socio-economic theory and practice, and how the UK (and even the world) might move forward positively.
Lisa said, “Over the course of the last year we’ve seen many theatre companies pivot to producing online content and streaming productions, but often this work wasn’t actually presented live, and, as such, one of the unique elements of the theatrical experience was lost. We have put together Waiting for Lefty with the specific aim of creating urgent socially engaged work that has the live immersive quality of real theatre. Although the theatre world is thankfully beginning to reawaken, the online nature of the project will enable audience members from across the country and panellists from across the world to meet and contribute in a safe way that is still just not possible to do in person.”
Phil adds “Lisa discovered Clifford Odets in New York, and was drawn back to Waiting for Lefty time and again. A couple of years ago, she asked me if I thought the play was still relevant and I was struck with one thought: it’s shocking how far we haven’t come since 1935. In the very first scene, the character Joe demands strike action for a ‘living wage;’ a phrase depressingly still being campaigned for now. We became obsessed with trying to understand how a play written in the midst of the 1930’s Great Depression was still so painfully resonant. When COVID19 hit, Lefty took on an even greater significance with the pandemic fully exposing just how unequal our society is. On March 16th 2020, I started rehearsals for a year-long contract in the West End. That evening theatres closed. Suddenly, like everyone else in the industry, we were both bleakly unemployed. This was particularly difficult as we were expecting our first child. The endless daily lockdown walks, first with Lisa’s growing belly, and later pushing a pram, led to many discussions about Lefty. We kept coming back to it and felt passionately that it needed to be seen. Entering November’s lockdown and inspired by theatre’s determination to continue creating by shifting work online, we decided we should do it. The time is right for Lefty. Viewed through today’s lens, Odets’ play demands we ask vigorous questions of ourselves and society but above all it asks us to come together to find a better way forward. As we begin to gather ourselves after this awful year, we need to come together. We need to have conversations that aim for a better future. This play, seen in this way, will provide a space for us to do that.
Two Lines Productions is a brand-new theatre company created by actors Phil Cheadle and Lisa Caruccio Came, Waiting for Lefty is their debut production. The company is named after the nickname of their baby daughter before she was born.
Waiting For Lefty plays from 18th to 23rd May 2021 on Zoom. Tickets available form Eventbrite