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This House: frenetic and fabulous tale of Parliamentary deal-making - review

Giles Cooper, William Chubb, Nicholas Lumley and Matthew Pidgeon dance a celebratory jig in James Graham's witty political expose "This House". Picture by Johan Persson
Giles Cooper, William Chubb, Nicholas Lumley and Matthew Pidgeon dance a celebratory jig in James Graham's witty political expose "This House". Picture by Johan Persson

A frantic play about the behind-the-scenes antics during the hung Parliament of 1974-1979 when Labour ran a minority government, dazzles and delights.

James Graham’s “This House”, now on at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, is set in the whips’ offices beneath the seized-up spectre of Big Ben’s clock-face and cuts between the House of Commons chamber, the riverside terrace and the bars with dizzying speed.

Labour’s efforts to cut deals with minority parties in return for support in the Commons has eerie echoes of Theresa May’s own attempts to shore up her narrow margin since last year’s election.

Rapid-fire and extremely funny dialogue invites comparison with the TV satire “The Thick of It”, but This House eschews the savagery and obscenity for a warmer, though no less entertaining, portrait of our elected leaders.

Martin Mellish’s Labour Chief Whip Bob Mellish crosses swords with his opposite number Humphrey Atkin, played by William Chubb, in two superb central performances which transcend cliche and present the politicians as people, rather than self-obsessed buffoons.

The 22 strong cast play a total of 66 roles in a brilliantly choregraphed production which never lets the energy flag, or overwhelms the audience with its constant fusilage of schemes, counter-schemes, conflicts of loyalty, interest and good old-fashioned political argie-bargie.

Live musicians perform brilliant renditions of songs by David Bowie and the Sex Pistols to signal the changing times.

A highly enjoyable romp through a turbulent period in British political history, which captures the fudges, the mix-ups and the mischief involved in performing the “art of the possible.”