Monday, 26 November 2012

This House (Cottesloe), October 2012

Who's in it? Charles Edwards, Phil Daniels, Philip Glenister, Lauren O'Neill, Richard Ridings, Vincent Franklin and Julian Wadham.

Where did you see it? The Cottesloe, but it's sold out run finishes on the 1st December and with a transfer to the Olivier in February.

Every so often this blog develops an unhealthy obsession with a play (Collaborators, Last of the Duchess) and this is my play of 2012. It helps with James Graham's This House to be a major fan of politics but this young writer merely puts together a coherrent script out of the real life drama that was the House of Commons between 1974 -1979.

It is a testament to the storyline that there is no real character development outside the Labour and Conservative Party whips. Charles Edwards, Ed Hughes and Julian Wadham are in the blue corner and Philip Glenister, Lauren O'Neill, Vincent Franklin, Philip Glenister (sadly not appearing in the Olivier transfer) and Phil Daniels, who appeared later in the run due to a family bereavement and was replaced by the fantastic Andrew Frame (appearing script in hand as the Cottesloe doesn't employ understudies) for the early shows.

The ensemble made up of Gunnar Cauthery, Andrew Havill, Christopher Godwin, Helena Lymbery, Giles Taylor, Matthew Pidgeon, Rupert Vanisart and Tony Turner are probably the most interesting to watch, they get to show their range even when their characters don't even have names; most of the MPs are refered to as the Member for [insert constituency here], which draws acknowledgement when the Member for Finchley is mentioned but mostly caused me to want to go home and google resulting in a "Oh that's who the Member for Abingdon is!"

The play's strength isn't so much its script (reading the playtext reveals a long winded play that would have been far longer than the 2 hours 45 it clocks in at) but a director and set designer in Jerrmy Herrin and Rae Smith, respectively, who make the most of the Cottesloe (the set's main attraction is the House of Common green benches in the stalls) and a house band doing versions of David Bowie songs (Daniels, envoking his Parklife days even does a number) that add to the seventies atmosphere and avoids being pretentious or embarassing to watch. Even the choreographed numbers feel like they have a place in a play that's text already has a lot going on.

I cannot really find fault with this play and it is such a relief to see a strong play after the disaster that is Damned by Despair at the National Theatre and what has been a weak year for NT productions in general.

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