Political plays are not my usual go-to when looking at shows in the West End. There’s no real reason why, I just tend to find big lavish musicals more exciting. However, when Labour of Love was announced to be starring Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig (though it was Sarah Lancashire originally) I couldn’t resist the urge to give it a try.
Comedy and politics seem an unusual pairing – but James Graham has perfectly crafted a solid story around it. The story is set away from the hustle and bustle of Westminster, as their office is situated in the party’s traditional northern heartlands, where Labour MP David Lyons (Martin Freeman) cares about modernisation and “electability”, while his constituency agent, Jean Whittaker (Tamsin Greig) cares about principles and her community. These two strong-headed individuals seem to constantly clash in philosophy, culture and class, but who’s to say there’s not something more underneath the surface?
The play cuts between the last 25 years of the Labour party - from Kinnock through Blair into Corbyn… and beyond? And it does so in such a clever way, that it makes it difficult for me to even explain. It took a while for me to come to grips with the style of the play, but once I understood, I realised it was genius! Subtle changes within the set and costume and the interesting use of screens showing old or specially recorded footage helped give each scene their time frame.
There’s no denying Freeman and Greig are class talents, and they share a natural chemistry. Both characters know they can’t bear to be without each other, even if they do all that they can to hide it. What a joy it is to witness their talents live on stage. Of course, the supporting cast are of equal brilliance with Rebecca ___ being a particular standout.
Overall, this play is bold and modern. It looks back at the past but allows us to look into what could be the future. The script is sharp, witty, funny and clever. It has the power to connect and resonate with a wide-ranging audience, and the packed out theatre seemed to love it. As was demonstrated in the hearty round of applause and standing o’ come the bows.
Tickets are extremely limited and as this show comes to a close 2 December I advise you to snap up tickets no matter the cost; it will be well worth it.
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