Cast Includes Phil Daniels, Steffan Rhodri and Nathaniel Parker
Running Time: 2 hours 40 mins inc. interval
This House by James Graham originally played the Cottesloe Theatre at the National in 2012, and having enjoyed sold out runs and moving to the larger Olivier stage, was planned to transfer to the West End. This was however scuppered when the planned theatre for the move, the Aldwych, was taken by Andrew Lloyd-Webber for his ill-fated Stephen Ward. This House has now arrived in the West End, taking in Chichester Festival Theatre on its way.
What was originally intended as a reaction to the coalition governments of Cameron and Clegg is now seen in a post-Brexit, post-Trump light. It topically mentions the referendums of EU membership and devolution, both of which are still prime issues today. It is based on the actual events of the Wilson and Callaghan governments, with supposed sections (namely, conversations between individuals).
What the play does best is show us the “engine room” – rather than focussing on the party leaders, we see behind-the-scenes with the party whips, who manoeuver and scheme to keep their party in control. Phil Daniels excels in the first act as the cockney lead Labour whip, bringing a real, down-to earth quality to his character. Steffan Rhodri is also good as his deputy – his scenes with his Conservative counterpart (played by the silky Nathaniel Parker) are especially interesting as they show the men behind the party, with nuanced and layered portrayals.
The role of the set is also not to be underestimated in this production – we feel like we are genuinely in parliament – with on stage seating that feels like the House of Commons (that also includes a bar utilised both in the production and also in the interval) the audience feels involved throughout and can relate it to what is happening today.
Summary: An interesting revival of this political hit. Relatable to current affairs, it raises the notion of power in our society with a great ensemble cast. ****