THE DUCK HOUSE
by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash.
Theatre Royal Theatre Square NG1 5ND To 15 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0115 989 5555.
Review: Alan Geary: 11 November 2013.
Satirical farce with a laugh a line built in. Performances are first class.
In the dying days of the Gordon Brown government Robert Houston, a Labour MP, is set to lose his seat so he intends to defect to the Tories, who are dangling a cabinet post in front of his nose. He’s about to be visited by Hesseltinesque Tory grandee Sir Norman Cavendish to receive a last-minute check-over when the expenses scandal hits the headlines.
The place is filled with hanging baskets, horse manure – and naturally enough a duck house. What’s more, Houston’s second home in town is actually his son’s house. How to hide all this from Sir Norman?
This is sharply contemporary satire, and you have to pay close attention because there’s a laugh a line. And because you know what’s going to transpire after the election, there’s an awful lot of dramatic irony.
There are also four, not the statutory five, doors. In all other respects this is classic English farce. Miller is trying to keep the facts from Sir Norman and in the process enlists the support of most of the others. But the hole he’s digging gets deeper.
Performances are first class. Timing is impeccable, and so are the slowly-dawning realisations, not just from Miller but from Nancy Carroll as wife Felicity and from Shepherd. He – good news for Houston – turns out to have some elements of his own private life he wants to stay private.
There are super performances too from James Musgrave (Seb, the student son with a vocabulary of two words, one of them containing four letters, who thinks Nick Clegg a man to be trusted), Debbie Chazen (Ludmilla, the Russian domestic with dodgy immigration status, an arch-Tory) and Diana Vickers (Seb’s girlfriend Holly, who’s an acupuncturist with little extras on the side).
Ben Miller is applauded as soon as he steps on stage, just for being there, which is annoying; that’s TV for you. But the reception he and the rest get at the end, along with the repeat curtain calls, is richly deserved.
Robert Houston MP: Ben Miller.
Felicity Houston: Nancy Carroll.
Ludmilla: Debbie Chazen.
Seb Houston: James Musgrave.
Sir Norman Cavendish: Simon Shepherd.
Holly: Diana Vickers.
Director: Terry Johnson.
Designer/Costume: Les Brotherston.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: John Leonard.