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While we are denied a collective live experience during the lockdown, archived performances continue to be streamed on line and currently one that is available is James Graham’s This House from the National Theatre, a gripping political drama set in the corridors of power, which although fictional encompasses a wealth of authenticity. Graham has had huge success not only with This House (which was also a sell-out hit in Chichester) but also with another political play Labour of Love and of course Ink charting a young Rupert Murdoch.
This study of the British parliamentary system and its ancient traditions focuses behind the scenes in the engine room of Westminster during the period 1974 to Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979. Labour’s hung Parliament relied on the Whips using underhand tactics to bring about a majority vote, clinging to power with the aid of the smaller parties (known as the ‘odds and sods’). Even sick and dying members were wheelchaired in to vote!
A clever set design dominated by a large clockface representing Big Ben allowed for plenty of action and both Government and Opposition benches.
Good dramatic tension and much comedy is created by some powerful performances from the cast, notably the stylish Charles Edwards (Jack Weatherill), charismatic Reece Dinsdale (Walter Harrison), Phil Daniels (Bob Mellish) and the lone female member Lauren O’Neil (Ann Taylor).
Well researched, absorbing and inventive theatricality of a lesser known feature of our domestic political administration.