By Hemanth Kissoon
“Has ambition triumphed over reason?” Chris Mullin (John Hodgkinson) questioning himself.
“Cocoa is Old Labour. Cappuccino is New Labour.” Robin Cook about his hot beverage.
“The political wing of the military industrial complex.” Mullin referring to Bush, Jr.’s presidency.
Opening with a member of the House of Commons addressing the Speaker, Chris Mullin reflects on his 23 years as an MP as he is about to retire – focusing on his time, quote-unquote, in power. Time rolls back to the 1st May 1997. For the next two hours we are given a schooling in how to deliver epic political comedy covering a party’s time in government. Hodgkinson is the focus, while four other players (Noma Dumezweni, Tracy Gillman, Hywel Morgan and Howard Ward) expertly put on accents and characters without needing a costume change. Based on ex-politician Mullin’s diaries, writer Michael Chaplin has fashioned a breakneck narrative which covers so many bases – from Murdoch and Kosovo, to Iraq and the expenses scandal, among so much else.
The set is minimalist, with a large TV screen, projecting various stills illustrating the monologues and conversations, and five chairs moved around the stage frantically to set-up the next observation/skit/swipe. The colour scheme is red mixed with grey/navy blue. New Labour red. Red in shoes, a tie, a cardigan. Though nothing is allowed to distract from the superb performances and cracking dialogue. The script and delivery is like something from a 1930s screwball comedy. One zinger after another. Rat-a-tat banter. All infused with criticism levelled everywhere. Nobody is safe from the satire, sarcasm and straight-laced disillusionment, all couched in charm and eloquence.
Intelligent and ridiculously entertaining, and actually devoid of cynicism. Has political frustration ever been conveyed so well? This is a must-attend.