A Walk on Part: The Fall of New Labor

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Walk On Part

Slogan-programmed automatons and petty villains dominate our political stage: so much so that a kindly, minor light of the Labour party whose chief legacy was, he says, the introduction of a 10mph speed limit on Lake Windermere seems like a post-hoc hero for our times.

Chris Mullin's funny, self-deprecating diaries from his decade on Blair's back and front benches have raised his bespectacled profile higher than junior office ever did. He is played here with wit, decency and Steve Bell-like wonky flair by John Hodgkinson: our not-quite-insider guide on a rewind and fast-forward tour of the Blair years.

It's a slightly mad project to stage Mullin's memoirs. Even given two-and-a-half hours they boil down to a timeline with a dizzyingly high cameo count. The fact this show works is tribute to the zing and frankness of the material (reshaped by Michael Chaplin); that it's often LOL funny is tribute to the satiricially gifted cast.

Hywel Morgan is the best Blair I've seen on stage (and I've seen a lot). He looks nothing like his quarry but spoofs the Telfon lightness of tone and smoothly matey, pre-Hawkish style quite brilliantly. He also does a mean Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner: surely the first time these three diverse big beasts have been so close together.

What emerges from the anecdotes and headline highlights is the story of a disappointed love affair: between Muliln and 'The Man' and, by extension, between Blair and his increasingly principled backbenchers. Their spats sit cosily in the Soho's downstairs bar, with its table seating and slightly butch aspect – redolent of a Labour party social or a darts contest.

In politics, events can move faster than politicians let alone stagings of their memoirs and Mullin's central account of Iraq, though interesting, is old news. It's the only part of this show that drags though: if you're up for political nostalgia, this minnows-eye view of power is funnier, more truthful and better value than the 'Yes, Prime Minister' revival that's doing the theatre rounds.

It also makes you yearn for the richly variegated regional voices like Prezza, Straw, Cooke and Clare Short which are so pointedly missing from our new, homogenous, old-boys government.

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