James Graham’s docudrama, This House, was first seen at the National Theatre in 2012, and Jeremy Herrin’s fast-moving and exhilarating production is now at the Garrick Theatre. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. The play will appeal to anybody who wants to know what goes on behind closed doors at Westminster: the script is witty and the wheeling and dealing hugely entertaining.
The action begins in 1974 with a hung Parliament and ends with Labour’s defeat five years later. With a majority of only three, and then a majority of one, Labour is liable at any minute to be outvoted on a vote of no confidence and kicked out of office. The British do what they have always done in such circumstances: they muddle through. The whips are under enormous pressure to get members to vote, and that means that the sick and even the dying have to be persuaded to turn up.
The acting is excellent. Steffan Rhodri and Nathaniel Parker are totally convincing as rival whips, and especially so in that moving moment when one of them behaves with unexpected decency and magnanimity.
Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, at Trafalgar Studios, is a Gothic horror story of incest and murder, more surreal than real. Premiered in 1978, Shepard’s play held up a mirror to rural America and found a nation divided, demoralised and disenfranchised: the American Dream was a myth. The script feels like a marriage between Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming and Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms.
A young man (Jeremy Irvine) returns to his home after a long absence, accompanied by his girlfriend (Charlotte Hope). The dysfunctional family deliberately fail to recognise him. Ed Harris, the distinguished Hollywood actor, and Amy Madigan (his wife), who are making their London debut, are cast as his strange grandparents.
The play is as weird as it always was but, at least in Scott Elliott’s New York production, it is no longer as spooky and as thrilling – and certainly not as hilarious – as I remember it.
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