James Graham’s political drama This House tells the enthralling story of the 1974 hung parliament. Displaying the ins and outs of what went on in parliament during the political revolution. It is a thrilling slice of history displayed excellently on stage.
During the era of chaos, the tensions between the labour and conservative party were at an all-time high. Now on tour after the play’s huge success in London, both at the National Theatre and the West End, it is a play that has a real connection to the regions. As we are introduced to a multitude of different MPs throughout the story, accents and character create some howling laughs from the audience. As deals were being done to get the votes of the minority parties, the Torys and Labour were at neck and neck.
As relationships break down and angst rises, the heat of parliament oozes with drama. Unable to lose a single vote, the parties were wheeling in sick MP’s to vote and people were dying at the scene. It is an incomprehensible situation that is displayed on stage
After opening in the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre (now Dorfman) it transferred to their main Olivier stage before heading to Chichester and then London’s West End. The story focuses on the Labour and Tory whips offices and James Graham has captured the language and style of the time remarkably.
Don’t be put off by the politics, as someone not alive during the time and as invested with politics as they need to be, I found the production highly entertaining. It’s fast-paced, witty and captures a range of superb characters to create a story that has you continually gripped. There isn’t a barrier and the terminology is easy to pick up on as the action unfolds.
The most impressive element of the play alongside its slick transitions and thrilling pace, is the way James Graham has crafted the characters. Based on the real-life politicians, it’s interesting to see the layers of each character and their mannerisms. We witness the traditions of parliament and the huge difference in class between the Torys and Labour MPs back in 1974.
James Gaddas as is driven and level-headed as Walter Harrison and his relationship with foul-mouthed Labour whip Bob Mellish (Martin Marquez) is a captivating relationship to watch grow on stage. Matthew Pidgeon gives a first-rate performance as deceitful Jack Weatherill who sheds his facade to reveal compassion. Harry Kershaw shines and is hilariously funny as numerous extravagant, pompous and uptight characters, displaying the stereotype of a Tory politician tremendously.
Parliament is a real old boys club and Natalie Grady’s performance as Ann Taylor is brilliant to watch. Hesitant and taken aback at first, she stands up for herself gaining immense respect from the Labour politicians. Ann is a key role in the production and it reflects how she had to undergo double the work to be recognised and earn her place.
This House is a high-powered and sharp production showcasing the political frenzy of the era that still resonates today.
On at the Birmingham Rep before continuing on tour, tickets and information can be found online here.