The 1970s are brought to life gloriously in this funny and nail-biting political drama.
To be a fly on the wall in the Palace of Westminster would be an enlightening position under any government: political establishments the world over are rife with constant underlying power struggles, and Britain is no different.
James Graham’s 2012 play This House assumes just this vantage point. Based on copious research and anecdotal evidence, the narrative follows the daily struggles of the Chief Whips’ offices in both the ruling and opposition parties under Harold Wilson’s Labour government. Set between the years 1974 and 1979, the play revolves around several of the key figures from this tumultuous time in British politics, but largely focuses on those individuals who we traditionally hear far less about: the so-called “engine room” of parliament.
Steffan Rhodri and Nathaniel Parker are both excellent as the Deputy Chief Whips of the Labour and Conservative camps respectively. Graham’s script is quick to draw parallels between the two men, each of them trying to maintain harmony and cohesion in equally fractious parties. Rhodry’s Walter Harrison is the archetypal Labour man: down-to-earth and hardheaded, with an instinctively acute moral compass. Parker as Jack Weatherill is slick, well-educated and Establishment through and through.
Jeremy Herrin directs a fast-paced and addictive production, with a large ensemble of actors taking on multiple roles – many of them depicting real-life politicians. Grungy rock music from Stephen Warbeck adds to the constant and frenzied atmosphere of political uncertainty, with Scott Ambler’s almost demented choreography cropping up now and then to add a dose of anarchic attitude to the narrative.
Equal parts funny, dramatic and informative, This House is everything you’d want from a political play. It is startlingly well-observed and totally captivating, lifting the lid on a fascinating period of British politics.
GT gives This House at the Garrick Theatre — 4/5