This House by James Graham
Theatre Royal Bath
This House created a huge impact when first seen at the National in 2012; likewise it has seen a revival in the West End in 2016 and is now on tour. It is a behind the scenes look at the engine rooms of Westminster. Here we meet the whips who roll up their sleeves and on occasion bend the rules to shepherd and coerce a diverse chorus of MPs in the hope of winning the party vote.
Set on the cusp of the arrival of Margaret Thatcher; some personalities are very clearly defined but the leaders and names stay out of sight so not to detract from the machinations of the workers keeping the party on track.
With live onstage music encapsulating the era the clash of class, ideals and optimism is evident. The company multi role with great ease ensuring all members are accounted for; whilst the main Whips are left to battle it out in the corridors of power. James Gaddas is a powerful and domineering Walter Harrison alongside Bob Mellish played by Ian Houghton both fighting for the Labour party. In the conservative corner are William Chubb as Humphrey Atkins and Matthew Pidgeon as Jack Weatherill.
The clash of class is fiercely underlined and reflected in the strong language and attitudes within the play. Although the piece follows through various story lines to keep the no confidence vote in Labour away from the doors of power; the play does not reflect or commit to anything in particular.
The current political struggles reflect that the fights go on, the deals continue and the life of a politician is both a precarious and public one. Perhaps if we were living in calmer times the impact would be greater.
However, this is a good production. The static set is impressive (Rae Smith) and the direction (Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’ Boyle) is slick and precise. The choreography is equally as impressive with the image of “5 years” both chilling and imposing.