THE DUCK HOUSE
by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash.
Vaudeville Theatre The Strand WC2R 0NH To 29 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat & 24 Dec 2.30pm, 31 Dec 3pm.
no performance 24 Dec eve, 25 Dec.
Runs: 2hr 15min One. interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4663
Review: Carole Woddis 12 December 2013.
Such ducks, those MPs, that cost us dear.
Back in 2009, the MP’s expenses scandal gave the Great British public a right good laff when it wasn’t wringing its hands in shock/horror, goaded on by the press.
Now, coinciding with MPs’ salaries once more in the news, comes this spin-off by two veterans of the comedy scene, Dan Patterson and Colin Swash who between them have clocked up fifty years of writing political jokes for such popular TV series as Mock the Week, Have I Got News For You and many more.
In Terry Johnson’s ever-spiralling production, The Duck House is as frantic and hysterical a romp as would have graced the Whitehall during its Brian Rix Whitehall era.
Styled a political satire, in fact it’s in the tradition of Moliere’s The Misanthrope or Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, more social lampooning with, in this case, the main protagonist being a Labour MP, Ben Miller’s amiably amoral Robert Houston (doing a very good impression of John Cleese in Fawlty Towers hysteria mode).
Trying to retain his seat by crossing the floor to the Tories, fun and games ensue when he is visited by High Tory emissary, Sir Norman Cavendish, come to vet him for possible Ministerial office in the next putative Tory government.
Westminster politicians are the primary but by no means only target. A Russian au pair (Debbie Chazen), Robert’s gangly, gambling student son, Zeb – a wonderfully hang-dog James Musgrave – and Zeb’s `acupuncture’-practising girlfriend Holly, all add to the gaiety beside the main fun of watching Robert’s intricate, self-serving wriggles and squirms.
Although the script is scattered with predictably topical references – “You wouldn’t see Nick Clegg selling his principles” – or the mischievous juxtaposition of words that cleverly skirt but never quite become libellous, the most successful part of the evening comes through situational farce.
Zeb, and then Sir Norman – caught in flagrante wearing a large nappy – emerge in giant panda costumes as Sir Norman’s Euro-dominatrix predilections at the hands of Holly are exposed.
Not exactly Yes, Minister but ‘twill serve nicely as a prod to reopening the MPs’ salary debate and as a contribution to the merry season.
Robert Houston, MP: Ben Miller.
Felicity Houston: Nancy Carroll.
Ludmilla: Debbie Chazen.
Seb Houston: James Musgrave.
Sir Norman Cavendish, MP: Simon Shepherd.
Holly: Diana Vickers.
Voices of: Charlotte Green, Gavin Esler, Graham Norton and Jessica Martin.
Director: Terry Johnson.
Designer/Costume: Lez Brotherston.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: John Leonard.
Associate director: Adam Lenson.
World premiere of The Duck House was at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford 24 October 2013.
First performance at the Vaudeville Theatre 27 November 2013.
Presented by Nica Burns, T C Beech Ltd, Charles Diamond, Neil Eckersley, Ian Lenagan, Max Weitzenhoffer with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.