Take your seat on the green benches: the fun is about to begin. It is 1974 and Ted Heath's Conservative government is on the way out – although not very far out, as it happens, since Labour don't win a majority in the election.
Responsibility for hanging on to power or wresting it back lies – in James Graham's new play anyway – with the whips, plotting and conniving in poky offices as if the British government were a confederacy of schoolboys trying to wriggle out of doing their homework.
Which is pretty much Graham's view of them. ('It was a mistake to let us sit together so we could pass notes,' is one Labour whip's summary of the Heath government's fall.) There are good – if often puerile – jokes in Jeremy Herrin's bright, pacy production, as well as odd bursts of song, rather like morning hymns, and a rock band on the balcony of Rae Smith's wonderful set (the Cottesloe is now the House of Commons).
The attitude, meanwhile, is glum nostalgia. These MPs are overgrown children with a dim sense that the world is changing around them; the pervading feeling is that neither plebs nor 'aristotwats' will much like the outcome of this hung parliament (and so it proved).
As the boys in natty blue, Julian Wadham and Charles Edwards rebuff the old notion that the Tories, the cream of Britain, were rich, thick and full of clots; the portly Labour whips, wheezing coaldust and swearing blind between apologies to the token woman, are well served by Vincent Franklin, Andrew Frame (standing in for original star Phil Daniels, who has temporarily left the production after a bereavement) and particularly, Philip Glenister, as a bruiser-ish fixer extraordinaire.
If these sound like stereotypes, so they are, but then, MPs function as representatives, so maybe that's appropriate. There's little to learn here but there is a lot to watch, not least the working paradox of a democratic system based on a bunch of hoary traditions, in which even an ex-miner and a toff have more in common than either will with the grocer's daughter about to pick the whole place up and rattle it till the pips squeak.
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Having been cheated into spending good money to see by the awful NT production "Dammed by despair" (which oddly was rated * by most but ***** by a few) - this was the opposite end of the scale. The best all-round production staged so far by NT this year. Brilliant writing, acting,staging and direction - topical too.
Simply wonderful! I've seen it 3 times now and it really does get better every time! Fast paced, beautifully layered and extremely moving! A total must see for anyone who loves theatre! x
This is fantastic - go if you can possibly get a ticket. Worth standing for if that's all you can get. By far the best theatre I've seen in ages. Great script, acting, set and staging. Can't believe it won't go on to another theatre sometime soon, but the staging and intimacy in the Cottlesloe is just brilliant.
Absolutely brilliant, the best play I've seen this year (and I've seen a lot). For such a young new playwright to come up with a script as good as this is nothing short of mind-boggling, especially as all the characters have been researched so scrupulously. Highly recommended - if you can get tickets!