Politics is a dirty business. Even more so when you have a minority government. James Graham’s new play is set in Westminster during the period between 1974 and 1979, when every vote counted in the war between Labour and Tory. Based on the memories of the party’s whips from that period it recreates an exciting time for British politics.
Being German, I knew, of course, nothing about the historical background to the play but I thoroughly enjoyed Jeremy Herrin’s production of the play. Westminster is depicted as one big machinery with the whips oiling the machinery and the MP’s as their fodder. Literally so, as the set with a miniature House of Commons revolves and new allegiances are found and lost, MP’s go astray or die. This is a huge opera, emphasised by the fact that on the viewing gallery a rock band comments the shenanigans downstairs like a modern Greek chorus. Real drama embroils the Labour Whips (Phil Daniels, Reece Dinsdale, Vincent Franklin) and Tory Whips (Julian Wadham, Charles Edwards, Ed Hughes) whose political membership is instantly recognisable by the way they dress, move and talk. It even gives a nod to the film “Quadrophenia” when Phil Daniels, who starred in the film and is one of the Labour whips, starts singing a punk song.
The only drawback to the play is that after almost three hours of political maneuvering, the play does start to feel a bit too mechanic itself. Still, I enjoyed this show more than the much hyped “The Audience”.
In the National Theatre until 15 May 2013