It’s the 1970s and a hung Parliament. Chaos reigns and all Whips are resorting to underhand tactics. Is James Graham’s This House any different to politics today? Ellie Woolman finds out.

Economic crisis, a hung Parliament and a load of back-stabbing politicians set the scene for James Graham’s This House. The political comedy comments on the Houses of Parliament in the 1970s, but funnily echoes some of the exact actions that are still happening today…

Graham strips down the jargon and presents Parliament’s politicians as humans doing their job in the bizarre world of British politics. Parliamentary votes are scarce due to the hung Parliament and so results can only be achieved by black-mailing, fist fights and everything in between. The 1970s traditions and idiosyncrasies are archaic, but the humour pokes fun at the fact that times haven’t really changed as much as we had hoped.

House Theatre Royal Plymouth

Image courtesy of Johan Persson

The offices of the Whips of both Labour & Conservatives are full of madness and Graham’s witty writing laughs at the absurdity of the situation. MPs are hauled in with oxygen tanks, newborn babies cry uncontrollably and unfinished appendix operations take place in the very room, just to secure votes in the grotesque lunacy of a hung Parliament situation. Designs by Rae Smith imitates the grandeur of Parliament as the backdrop to the madness, with on-stage seating for those plucky enough to be amongst the action. Angsty 70s music by Stephen Warbeck accompanies the book well, when the MPs join in with some robotic dancing.

House Theatre Royal Plymouth

Image courtesy of Johan Persson

James Gaddas and Martin Marquez give stand-out performances in their portrayals of the ‘lampshade haircut and bell-bottom trousered’ Labour Whips, complete with their ‘jack-the-lad’ personas and particularly witty humour. William Chubb shines as the straightlaced Tory Whip in the opposite corner. The dynamics between the two front-running parties are comical but totally believable for contemporary audiences – not much has changed in the grand scheme of things.

House Theatre Royal Plymouth

Image courtesy of Johan Persson

A moment amplified by Graham to resonate with 2018 audiences is the absurdity of a woman wanting to breast-feed in public. With horrific outcries from the males in the office who physically shading their eyes from view, the ridiculousness of the situation is a massive eye-brow raise to society. Excellent job, Graham.

This House is a long but enjoyable show that dips into the complexities of the unknown characters of Parliament in the 1970s, where death threats are the norm. Graham’s writing is a witty comment on society today by reflecting on the changes in the last 40 years.

 

 

★★★☆☆

This House runs at Theatre Royal Plymouthh until 5 May 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.