Monday, 19 December 2016

Review: This House - Garrick Theatre

This House is a fictional account of the House of Commons during 1974 and 1973, inspired by very real events. James Graham’s play follows the daily conflicts and battles between both Labour and Tory whips during this highly turbulent political period.

For those of you who know as shamefully little as I do about this moment of British history, the general election of 1974 was the first election since the second world war not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons, resulting in a hung parliament.

While the political issues of the 1970s provide the backdrop to This House, the play is in fact much more about human interactions, power struggles and ‘playground politics’, rather than having any deep political stance or message.

After an opening sequence of musical-esque movement that remains oddly placed, This House is composed of fast-paced overlapping scenes that maintain a nice fluidity and rhythm. Throughout most the play, the ‘speaker’ of the House of Commons is present, introducing each MP by their constituency as the enter the stage, which makes the order of events clear and easy to follow without being obtrusive.

James Graham turns what was a time of political turmoil, particularly for those stuck right in the centre of the action, into a comedy that mocks many of the seemingly absurd rituals and procedures with which these members of the hung parliament were faced in the years following the election.

Since the focus of the play is on people and their interactions, having strong and interesting characters is key, and both the script and the cast deliver absorbing characterisation. Stand-out performances come from Steffan Rhodri and Nathaniel Parker who embody perhaps the most real and human figures, where others do dip slightly into caricature.

Bar a few more incongruous moments of song and a strange episode involving a large blue sheet being waved across the stage to represent the Thames, This House is an engaging and amusing exploration of human interplay in politics, and although these power struggles are set in the turbulent political situation of 1974, the basic levels of power play, tactical interactions and personal and professional relationships are transferable to almost any other era and location.

This House is booking at the Garrick Theatre until the end of February 2017.

*I was gifted this ticket in exchange for a review, but all words and opinions are my own.


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