A few months ago, I went to see the stage adaptation of Yes, Prime Minister, a hugely entertaining look at the stresses and influences on the most prominent office in the country.
The wit and candid humour was much appreciated, as it often seems all too easy to scribe a political drama that is boring and technical.
In the same vein, This House has had a hugely successful run at the Cottesloe and is now in the middle of its stint at the National, which ends in December. James Graham’s play takes us back to 1974, when punk ruled and Britain had a hung parliament. Swap punk for electro, throw in the internet and it doesn’t sound all too dissimilar from today.
…The parties are portrayed in comical stereotypes…
The play covers about five years and guides us through how Labour whips consolidated power and worked with winning only three more seats than the Conservatives. The parties are portrayed in comical stereotypes and there was no mistaking who belonged to which party, however considering how quickly the play moved and shifted from whip to whip this is probably a good thing.
This House is also creatively staged; some audience members sit on the stage in a House of Commons set-up, whilst yet more sit in viewing galleries above the House. The whips and their assistants were played with piercing precision, with every facial gesture and hand movement sharp and well-choreographed. The same could be said of the dialogue, loaded with political wit and humour.
…the play is so charged with heavy political wheeling and dealing…
The only down side of this production is its length; standing at two hours and forty-five minutes, the play is so charged with heavy political wheeling and dealing that if you’re not so hot on your British politics, you might find it a challenge to keep up. What you can be sure of is that you’ll emerge from the theatre feeling as if you’d just witnessed a lesson in political history and a tour of the House of Commons all in one go.
Overall this was a hilarious, verging on slapstick, look at the political turmoil this country found itself in almost forty years ago. However much of it is true, Graham gives us a backstage tour of the House of Commons and a light-hearted look at a meaty topic.