"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Sunday, October 09, 2016
HOUSE Chichester Festival Theatre at the Minerva
starts as we leave the Minerva foyer. Wood panelling, and inside “the
chamber” realistic – and surprisingly comfortable green benches,
ranged either side of the acting area. Not to mention the Strangers'
Bar, to the left of the Speaker's Chair, which is pressed into
service in the interval – 70s bar snacks,
ashtrays and a nice half of Sussex Prospect.
James Graham's taut, desperately hilarious drama, most of the action
takes place in the “engine room”, the smoke-filled
where the Whips and their deputies keep their members in line through
the turbulent, traumatic days of the
Labour – and briefly
Lib-Lab Pact – government of 1974-79.
names are mostly kept off stage - Wilson,
Callaghan and Thatcher
we do see Hezza brandish the Mace,
Norman St John Stevas fobbed off with the Arts.
lobby fodder, it's often a life and death struggle - Doc
Godwin] and Joe [David Hounslow] amongst those who die in office; a
sobering sequence has Phil Daniels singing Bowie's Five Years as they
drop one by one.
plays Bob Mellish, “token Cockney geezer”, sparring with his Tory
opposite number Humphrey Atkins, played with laid-back disdain by
Malcolm Sinclair. Mellish's successor is the subtler, but just as
steely, Michael Cocks, played with increasing weariness by Kevin
key relationship is between their two deputies, Steffan
Rhodri as Walter Harrison, Nathaniel Parker as Jack Weatherill, two
men who understand the
need for compromise and horse-trading.
Taylor, a feisty new girl in the labour office, who eventually rose,
many, many years later to the rank of Chief Whip, is played by Lauren
O'Neil, while Sarah Woodward plays all the other women, including
wives, widows and the formidable Audrey
live duo, belting out hits of the era, and changing their costume to
reflect the passing years.
changes in the British political scene since those politically
incorrect days. And indeed since the piece was first seen at the
National just four years ago ...