Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Sunday, March 10, 2013

This House at the National Theatre London

By Guest Blogger
John Hartery

It was a notable weekend at the National Theatre in London as the smaller Cottosloe was about to shut down for a refit and rebranding in recognition of a large benefactor.

Fresh from the same Cottosloe  the new play, This House, by James Graham and directed by Jeremy Herrin was just settling into the huge Olivier Theatre when I caught it last Saturday. The play is a comedy  based on the Harold Wilson led Labour government in the 1974-1977 period. However, Wilson never appears and nor does many of the other big hitters politician of the time  because the action is set in the powerhouse behind the thrones in the  smokey backrooms occupied by the whips.
Labour Whip played by Phil Daniels 

The minority Wilson government survived for 5 years  by the  skin of its teeth through deals, chicanery,  dirty tricks, MPs on stretchers and old fashioned politics.  The sets dominated by a centrepiece clockface are  clever and  move between the benches of the House of Commons and the office of the government and opposition whips. The characters are introduced by the Speaker which is a clever device to help keep track of the many characters in the fast moving action.
off stage
At the beginning, we get some good gags as the newly elected Labour party whips with their  beer and sandwiches usurp the smooth Tory Toffs. Some  caricatures   jar a bit including the permanently drunk unionist politicians from Northern Ireland.
Some remarkable episodes of the time are recreated included the death faking and reappearance of John Stonehouse and the Lib-Lab Pact.

But there was  many more larger than life incidents that were only briefly touched on including Michael Heseltine and the mace and  the Jeremy Thorpe  court  trial. I suspect the play will reappear in a TV  format akin to Mad Men when those flared trousers can get another outing. The live 70'style guitar driven rock band acts as an aural backdrop of the period, This feature was not to everyone's taste and a gentleman seated in my row put his hands resolutely  in his ears for these bits

This House  was  excellent entertainment, a glimpse behind the scenes into how politics works for us.

Earlier in the day I saw Port by Simon Stephens in the Lyttleton which was memorable for a tour de force performance by Kate O'Flynn

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