The political landscape of the 1970s is not too far removed from recent years. A hung parliament, leaders struggling to cling on to power, talks of devolution and a split with Europe – sound familiar?
While the names of some of the politicians are no longer familiar, the situations and images of backroom politics resonate with audiences and give James Graham’s This House a distantly modern air.
The play takes place within the Palace of Westminster, something that all members of parliament have great respect and reverence for. The stage is both the chamber of the House of Commons and the chief whips' office of both major parties with the omnipresent face of Big Ben looming in the background. Some audience members were invited to sit on the set, giving them the positions of backbenchers and members of the public gallery.
As the action unfolds, elements seem more and more to be an Old Boys’ Club. Back room deals, gentlemen’s agreements, the flow of whisky and cigarettes. What are also apparent are the pitfalls of career politicians seeking to advance their own career rather than do what they think is necessarily right for their constituents from which they are so far removed. On this point a mention must go to the member for Coventry South West, Audrey Wise who voted with her constituents in spite of the governments tenuous grip on power causing tension within the Labour Party.
The play has a wonderful ensemble lead by Steffan Rhodri and Nathanial Parker. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, there are recognisable elements of Headlong’s hallmarks. Audiences are also treated to a song in act II from Phil Daniels who plays the Labour chief whip in act I.
The dialogue is fun, funny and witty and the action fast paced. At 2 hours 50 minutes including an interval, the play is long but at no point feels it. A delightful piece with a well deserved revival at London's Garrick Theatre following from its 2012 sell out run at the National Theatre.
Is it worth going to see? The ayes have it with an overwhelming majority.
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