Previewed 19 November 2016, Opened 30 November 2016, Closed 25 February 2017 at the Garrick Theatre in London
James Graham's acclaimed political drama This House in London, following two sold-out season at the National Theatre.
James Graham's new play looks back to the last hung parliament in 1974. On that occasion, the parties discussed a coalition but ended up with a minority Labour government, led by Harold Wilson. Graham goes behind the scenes during the turbulent years from 1974 through to 1979 to imagine life among the Whips, charged with the task of trying to cajole and coerce a bunch of mismatched MPs.
Following two sell-out seasons at the National Theatre at the Dorfman (Cottesloe) Theatre in 2012 and the Olivier Theatre in 2013 and a run at Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva Theatre in September 2016, this production transfers here to the Garrick Theatre this November with the original creative team led by the original director Jeremy Herrin.
The cast for this West End season here at the Garrick Theatre features Phil Daniels as Bob Mellish, Kevin Doyle as Michael Cocks, David Hounslow as 'Joe Harper', Ed Hughes as 'Fred Silvester, Lauren O'Neil as 'Ann Taylor', Nathaniel Parker as 'Jack Weatherill', Steffan Rhodri as 'Walter Harrison', Malcolm Sinclair as 'Humphrey Atkins' and Sarah Woodward as 'Lady Batley' with Christopher Godwin, Peter Landi, Matthew Pigeon, Giles Taylor, Tony Turner and Orlando Wells. Please note casting subject to change without notice. Directed by Jeremy Herrin with choreography by Scott Ambler, designs by Rae Smith, lighting by Paule Constable, music by Stephen Warbeck and sound by Ian Dickinson.
With regard to the late 1970s time period during which this play is set, the playwright James Graham - who was born in 1982 and wrote this play through both research and by interviewing those involved - said: "In the play I never want to comment or judge the period because it's unfair to the characters and to that world to apply modern standards to the past. That's when you get into all the PC stuff. There was an identity crisis happening at the time. It's the fault line, the crossroads of a country coming out of the post-war period and going into the modern age and wrangling with it and not knowing what to do."
When this production opened here at the Garrick Theatre in November 2016, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard praised "James Grahamís magnificently sharp and witty look at the struggles of the 1974-9 Labour government, is masterful all over again, in this ebullient new production from original director Jeremy Herrin. It is a landslide success... There has simply been no better direction than this in 2016; Herrin conducts, choreographs and makes fly material that could potentially, in lesser hands, be tough-going at times... Both a treat and a triumph, this is a superlative night out in the West End." Patrick Marmion for the Daily Mail highlighted that, "four years since it opened at the National Theatre, James Grahamís account of the hung Parliament of the Seventies has lost none of its freewheeling exuberance... A play of astonishing, virtuoso complexity which is also a crash course in the workings of Parliament." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph hailed it as being "the most intelligent, entertaining and informative political drama of this decade... but the show is so lucid, fascinating and well-staged by director Jeremy Herrin, with an excellent, budget-busting ensemble of 16, it deserves an audience at any time." Ann Treneman in the Times commented that "James Graham could not have picked a less sexy political subject if he tried... Yet, as ever, politics is less substance and more power machinations. It's riveting stuff and Machiavelli himself would have given this five stars." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said it was "a fascinating account of the mechanisms of parliamentary democracy, symbolised by the innards of Big Ben looming over all."
Jeremy Herrin's West End credits include Duncan Macmillan's People, Places and Things at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2016; Sean O'Casey's Plough and the Stars at the National Theatre in 2016; Jennifer Haley's The Nether at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2015; Mike Poulton's stage adaptations of Hilary Mantel's novels Bring Up the Bodies and Wolf Hall for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre in 2014; Julian Mitchell's Another Country at the Trafalgar Studios in 2014; Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2012; Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2011; and Polly Stenham's That Face at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2008.
"It is hard to conceive of as febrile a period in Westminster as the days following the Brexit vote. Yet James Graham's 2012 National Theatre hit does precisely that, opening with the hung parliament of February 1974, then showing Labour's slog to cling on to a narrow victory in that autumn's snap election. This propulsive, often fiercely funny and strikingly relevant play takes us into the engine rooms, ó the whips' oces ó to show the high-stakes game being played out, and its personal toll. Jeremy Herrin's arch yet tender staging enjoys its surrealisms: the MPs enter in formation to a 'house' band of long-haired rockers... The cast are riveting, but it is Kevin Doyle's Michael Cocks and Lauren O'Neil's Ann Taylor who make you care." The Sunday Times
"Politics have a familiar ring in James Graham's boisterous Westminster comedy This House... Graham's play is set in the mid 1970s when the Labour government is clinging to power with, at times, a single figure majority and, at times, no majority at all... While having great fun with its arcane rituals, Graham clearly feels that the current political system is unfit for purpose. Jeremy Herrin's splendidly inventive production ranges widely across Parliament, from the cellars and archives to the ancient prison under the Clock Tower, but it focuses on the whips' offices... Largely caricatures, Labourites are portrayed as foul-mouthed oiks and Tories as smarmy toffs but the show transcends its limitations through the wit and energy of Graham's writing and splendid performances from the entire cast." The Sunday Express
This production was originally staged at the National Theatre's Cottesloe (Dorfman) Theatre (previewed from 18 September 2012, opened 6 October and closed 1 December 2012, performed in repertory) before transferring to the Olivier Theatre (previewed from 23 February 2013, opened on 28 February 2013 and closed on 16 May 2013, performed in repertory). Prior to this West End staging, the production is being presented at the Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva Theatre from 23 September 2016 to 29 October 2016.
When this production was seen at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in February 2013, Dominic Maxwell in The Times hailed it as being "a gripping and fluidly staged account of the sink-or-swim daily life in a minority government... James Graham, his director Jeremy Herrin and the designer Rae Smith have found the right level of rollicking theatricality with which to make vivid the often farcical survival tactics as Labour galvanises votes from other parties and from MPs who are rebellious, breast-feeding or seriously ill." Fiona Mountford in The London Evening Standard highlighted that, "after a sell-out run in the Cottesloe the drama returns, now dynamically redirected by Jeremy Herrin for the wide spaces of the Olivier auditorium.... A landslide success." Matt Trueman in The Guardian commented that "This House is a thoroughbred crowd-pleaser, lampooning - without tipping into spoof - a political system that is flawed but somehow still functioning... The play could use more socio-political substance, but director Jeremy Herrin works wonders with Graham's neat rat-a-tat gags, and his restrained showmanship staves off the play's repetition." Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph described it as being "diligently researched, ferociously witty, and permeated by a deep sense of the tragicomic nature of all political systems... James Graham's astonishingly assured account of the compromised mixture of ambition and idealism that informs the politics of any era is beautifully served by Jeremy Herrin's pitch-perfect direction, performances of exemplary wit and humanity from the ensemble cast."
When this production originally opened at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre (now Dorfman Theatre) in October 2012, Simon Edge in The Daily Express hailed "Jeremy Herrin's stunning production," adding that "it works faultlessly within its own parameters, providing a hilarious and occasionally moving insight into a culture that was once crucial to who ran Britain." Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard wrote that "James Graham approaches the chaos of party politics in a style that is often bitingly funny," and "director Jeremy Herrin injects plenty of pace, and there is arresting movement choreographed by Scott Ambler. There's also bracing music by Stephen Warbeck... it's a fresh and energetic piece. Visually enjoyable and packed with clever lines." Michael Billington in The Guardian explained that "this is a play about the daily process of politics rather than big ideas, but it recreates, with startling vividness, the madness of life in Westminster... Jeremy Herrin's production recaptures, with abundant theatricality, accompanying music and choreographed movement, the mayhem of Westminster politics." Paul Taylor in The Independent praised "James Graham's wonderfully lively new play" - his "incisive, witty, fictionalised account keeps the big names largely offstage and focuses predominantly on the exertions of the Labour and Tory whips as they fight their war of attrition... Jeremy Herrin's production has a terrific dynamism, with a splendid group of quick-change actors revolving in a multiplicity of roles." Libby Purves in The Times said "Rae Smith's design frames Jeremy Herrin's lively production of James Graham's first play for the National Theatre... from facts and memoirs Graham shapes a brilliantly exhausting, funny and moving political epic." Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph commented that "it's not often that I sit through a three-hour play wishing it longer. But James Graham's superb new drama held me - and, I suspect, everyone else in the audience - enthralled throughout. It is by turns funny, touching and cliff-hangingly suspenseful... James Graham has researched his play with exemplary thoroughness and there is a thrilling tang of authenticity about the piece... Jeremy Herrin's production ensures that this wordy and complex piece seethes with dramatic energy." Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times highlighted that "James Graham's astute, funny and hugely enjoyable new play... Director Jeremy Herrin pulls against factual overload with a high-energy production that conveys a sense of frenzied limbo... The play is too long, too busy and hampered in places by stereotype. But it remains entertaining and becomes, as 1979 approaches, increasingly moving."
"James Graham's new work This House feels like a jolly end-of-term show. The National has recreated the Commons chamber in the little Dorfman Theatre, and the Tory and Labour members charge about the place like schoolchildren marinated in cider... There's a band, dance routines and some side-splittingly funny lines, but, running to almost three hours, Graham's stream of consciousness is also just ever-so-slightly exhausting." The Sunday Telegraph
"James Graham's breakout play doubles as a drama about the British way of politics and a masterful lampooning of our parliamentary system... Propelled by a superb cast, Jeremy Herrin's production moves with surprising swiftness. The script nails the satin and bellicose tones of politicians, and a culture stiff with sexism and class-consciousness, but it's not just caricatural, or out to show us elected officials running the gamut of incompetence. Along with the devious tactics and the wheeler-dealing, there are measures of decency." The Sunday Times
"This is James Graham's accomplished new play, This House... The characters are rather caricatured, but to gloriously comic effect. The Tory whips are pinstriped whiskydrinking toffs - 'aristotw*ts' according to one Labour MP. The Labour lot are beer-swilling, darts-playing plebs with regional accents and terrible brown suits. However, things are changing. A Labour man listens to opera, and a Tory watches Coronation Street. The drama builds with mounting tension to the vote of no confidence in 1979 that would open the door of No 10 to Mrs Thatcher. Jeremy Herrin's excellent staging includes some lovely choreographed moments when the MPs dance while a live band plays David Bowie's Five Years and other blasts from the past. Graham's implicit suggestion is that what really matters most to politicians is staying in power. What they do with that power seems secondary. The play is studded with sharp observations... Hugely enjoyable, and acted with flair, it fully deserves a second term." The Mail on Sunday
This House in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 19 November 2016, opened on 30 November 2016 and closed on 25 February 2017.