The Duck House
is a new comedy by Dan Patterson
and Colin Swash
about the expenses scandal which unsurprisingly makes a brilliant topic for a farcical comedy. The play is incredibly funny, relevant and you do not need to closely follow politics to find the piece amusing and to pick up on the various references. The writers and audience are very much laughing at the politicians, opposed to laughing with them.
Set in 2009, when the expenses scandal was on the front of all the newspapers and the Government was in meltdown, The Duck House centres around Labour backbencher Robert Houston (played by Ben Miller). Miller is a revelation and gives the performance of a lifetime. He is hysterical and, at times, reminded me of comedy legend John Cleese.
Robert’s house is literally bursting with receipts and various extravagant items, all of which have been paid for by the taxpayer. As you would expect, when Robert's wife Felicity (who also happens to be his secretary, despite not being able to use a computer) contemplates having to actually pay for something she nearly has a heart attack. Robert realises that his seat is in danger so decides his best bet it to change parties, meaning he has to impress Tory Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd). Robert must knock his wife, maid, son and his son's girlfriend into shape… but of course it’s not that straightforward.
The Duck House features a good balance between verbal and physical comedy. There are moments of mad, fast-paced farce as well as witty one-liners and political references. The play is brought to life by the most terrific cast. It is a joy to watch such a polished production performed to such an effortlessly high standard, although there are plenty of ‘was that meant to happen?’ moments.
Nancy Carroll shines as Robert’s wife and steals many scenes. Debbie Chazen also gives a brilliant stand out performance as the family’s outspoken Russian housekeeper Ludmilla who has some rather interesting political ideas.
James Musgrave brings calmness to proceedings as Seb who is hiding a secret, while former X Factor finalist Diana Vickers plays Seb's girlfriend Holly. Vickers doesn’t make her first entrance until the second act. She arrives with a bang and gives a good performance.
The atmosphere in the Vaudeville Theatre was electric as the entire audience erupted into fits of laughter consistently from beginning to end. At times I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen next but there were also inevitable moments which only built up excitement and anticipation. I laughed until tears were rolling down my cheeks. The Duck House is so much fun that it’s almost like therapy!
Not only is The Duck House one of the funniest shows in the West End but it also makes a very valid political point. If you want to have a good laugh, see some terrific performances and support a new piece of writing you must book tickets to see this fantastic new comedy.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins
The Duck House officially opened on 10th December 2013 and runs until 29th March 2014.