Labour of Love

Previewed 27 September 2017, Opened 3 October 2017, Closed 2 December 2017 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London

The World Premiere of James Graham's new comedy Labour of Love in London starring Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig

The Labour MP David Lyons cares about modernisation and what he says is 'electability' while his constituency agent, Jean Whittaker, cares about principles and her community. Set in the Labour Party's traditional northern heartlands, away from the Central London 'Westminster Bubble' - the scene is set for a clash of philosophy, culture and class against the backdrop of the past 25 years when the Labour Party has moved on from Neil Kinnock through Tony Blair into Jeremy Corbyn... and beyond?

The cast features Martin Freeman as 'David Lyons MP' and Tamsin Greig as 'Jean Whittaker' with Rachael Stirling as 'Elizabeth Lyons', Kwong Loke as 'Mr Shen', Dickon Tyrrell as 'Len Prior' and Susan Wokoma as 'Margot Midler'. Directed by Jeremy Herrin with sets by Lee Newby, costumes by Lee Newby, lighting by Neil Austin and sound by Paul Arditti. Presented as a co-production between the Michael Grandage Company and Headlong.

James Graham's theatre credits include the newspaper play Ink that is currently playing at the Duke of York's Theatre up to 6 January 2018 and the political play This House that was staged at the Garrick Theatre in 2016.

When this production opened here at the Noel Coward Theatre in October 2017, Michael Billington in the Guardian hailed it as being a "brilliant new play," which in "Jeremy Herrin’s ebullient production makes rich use of film footage to record Labour’s fluctuating fortunes and is sparklingly acted." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "when Tamsin Greig and Martin Freeman are together on stage, they are magic. She's acerbic, funny, vulnerable. He's bustling and earnest and, as a politician, can see the bigger picture," adding that "Jeremy Herrin directs with confidence." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said that "Tamsin Greig is astounding. Her comic timing is unassailable and her character seasoned with details that speak volumes about her feelings: a fleeting glance or an explosive over-reaction. Martin Freeman provides the perfect foil as the decent but emotionally myopic David who has to roll with the punches." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "like all James Graham's work this is diligently researched and informative. At times sitcommy contrivance swamps satirical sharpness. But in its brightest moments this nearly three-hour show is an inventive hybrid of Much Ado About Nothing, Yes Minister and Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times described how "Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig as the central couple show off their funny bones without attenuating the sometimes intense political argument." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail explained that "this play is not just about nerdish Labour strategy. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, it is adroitly staged and the central relationship between the unhappily married male MP and his divorced female agent has potential."

Martin Freeman's London theatre credits include the title role in Jamie Lloyd's revival of William Shakespeare's Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios in 2014, he was also in the original cast of Bruce Norris' play Clybourne Park at the Royal Court Theatre in 2010. Tamsin Greig's West End theatre credits include Pedro Almodóvar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre in 2015; April De Angelis' Jumpy at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2012; Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed at the Garrick Theatre in 2010; Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage at the Gielgud Theatre in 2008; and William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing at the Novello Theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2006.

PLEASE NOTE: This production was originally scheduled to feature Sarah Lancashire as 'Jean Whittaker' but, unfortunately, during rehearsals for the play it was announced that Sarah Lancashire had to withdraw on doctor’s advice - Tamsin Greig took over the part prior to the start of public previews. Originally public previews where due to start on 15 September 2017, with an official opening night on 25 September 2017 but, to allow enough rehearsal time, the production was postponed by around one week with public previews starting on 27 SEptember 2017 and a new official opening night on 3 October 2017. The closing date was unchanged and remained as 2 December 2017.

Jeremy Herrin's theatre credits include Duncan Macmillan's new play People, Places and Things at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2016; Jennifer Haley's play The Nether at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2015; Mike Poulton's stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at the Aldwych Theatre in 2014; Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2012; Ariel Dorfman's play Death and the Maiden at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2011; and Polly Stenham's play That Face at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2008.

"James Graham is the political playwright of the moment. Labour of Love is, like hit This House, an examination of the Labour Party, this time pitting New Labour MP David Lyons against his agent Jean, who represents the workingclass community battling quarry closures and poverty in his Midlands constituency. The action opens with David losing the seat in 2017, the first Labour MP to do so since the 1930s. It then spools back to the Kinnock years and the creation of New Labour. At times the history lesson is rather, well, laboured, and it can feel like one of David's PowerPoint presentations. However, the second act zings into life thanks to some classic one-liners and feisty arguments. But well played as it is, it somehow lacks real bite." The Sunday Mirror

"James Graham has fashioned an embraceable political romcom that's both rapid-response and history-spanning. If Jeremy Herrin's show had a slogan, it would be 'for the many'. While its sweetness to cynicism ratio won't suit everyone, it slips down agreeably. And it stars Tamsin Greig, who lends the comedy much-needed astringency as well as a beating heart... The play cycles back through key moments in the Labour Party's history, from Tony Blair to Neil Kinnock. Between scenes, we get nostalgic bursts of newsreel montages and pop from 2017 to 1990. This is no Betrayal: the emphasis is on loyalty and graft... Martin Freeman is usefully nondescript, even when sporting bouffy Blair hair, and almost touchingly average for a would-be high-flyer. A too-imperious Rachael Stirling pops up as his fruity-toned wife. And Greig delivers exquisite bolshie devilment." The Sunday Times

"By James Graham's own admission he had a lot of rewriting to do as the June 8 election results came in, given the assumptions about Jez's chances. What's striking all the same, given the confused state of play, is how coherent his response is. With deftness, wit and a stirring amount of romantic love, the evening gets to the heart of the ideological rifts and tiffs that have beset Labour since its red rose clutching fight-back against the Thatcher supremacy. It's back to the seismic resignation of Mrs T in 1990 that the first half rewinds, beginning on election night 2017 and moving past the coalition years, the 2001 election and the 1994 Labour leadership campaign. Accompanying between-scenes footage in Jeremy Herrin's smartly paced production supplies surprisingly nostalgia-inducing context of Teflon Tony et al in their prime... Even if this isn't a landslide theatrical victory - the script contains some laboured gags and David Lyons's wife is a stereotype of alienating snobbery - it deserves to do terrific box-office business." The Sunday Telegraph

Labour of Love in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 27 September 2017, opened on 3 October 2017 and closed 2 December 2017