theatre reviews

This House: The honour in political machinery

First published on ProgressOnline

James Graham’s play, This House, exploring the working-class heroes in the whips’ office –  who fought the Tories and hard left to keep a Labour government in office – feels more poignant now than when it first opened in 2012. Reopening at the Garrick Theatre, Graham’s masterpiece shows the use of tactics, corralling the ‘odds and sods’ in smaller parties and the sheer determination to not give up that characterised the Labour members of parliament who went above and beyond for our party. More importantly, to try and give the voters what they had voted for. They were driven by one main insight: the worst day of a Labour government is better than a Tory government on its best day. When the Tory chief whip goads his opposite with ‘you are not getting anything done’, the retort, from Michael Cocks (played by Downton Abbey’s Kevin Doyle) is simple: ‘We’re keeping you out of power’.

Sadly this spirit was not shared among all comrades. The play retells how Audrey Wise [Sarah Woodward] and Jeff Rooker [Matthew Pidgeon] tabled a backbench amendment – for the first time ever by MPs on the government benches – to the budget. This allowed the Tories to rally round and deliver a body blow to the government. Arguably, it never recovered, and nor did Labour’s credibility on the economy for nearly two decades. (more…)


First published on ProgressOnline

Hope the play

Hope runs at the Royal Court, London SW1 until 10 January 2015

Actor Paul Higgins moves seamlessly from foul-mouthed and over-confident Downing Street operator in the Thick Of It to his latest role as contorted local councillor in Jack Thorne’s latest play, Hope. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Higgins is number two this time to cold Labour council leader Hilary (played by Stella Gonet) rather than hothead Labour apparatchik Malcolm Tucker.

The play revolves around the huge and desperate cuts that Eric Pickles and his colleagues have forced on local government. It looks at the trials and tribulations of a council having to find £22m of cuts in the coming year. All trying to do the right thing, many hours are spent trying to choose one cut over another. It all turns sour when a day centre for disabled people gets axed. Run by the ex-wife of the deputy leader, she is able to use her foot in both worlds to rally anti-austerity forces locally and nationally. The council backs down and it only gets worse. (more…)

This May Hurt a Bit

First published on ProgressOnline

This May Hurt  a BitWith a star-studded cast, This May Hurt a Bit at London’s St James’ Theatre is the perfect mix between a party political broadcast from Michael Foot’s Labour party and a Guardian reader’s dinner party.

While the actors were second to none, their script was simplistic and lacked the depth that the debate on our NHS deserves. Glib claims that ‘Nu Labour’ followed seamlessly from Thatcherism and that the coalition government’s pernicious reforms are somehow the realisation of Blair’s vision before them, betray the real truth. It is for someone else to point out the fact that it is this sloppy logic that would also say that all changes and charges in the NHS started with everyone’s favourite Labour government, the very founders of the NHS, as they imposed prescription charges in 1951.