A Walk on Part is an adaptation of former Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin’s celebrated diaries, taking in the years from 1999 to 2010, including the invasion of Iraq, the collapse of the banks, and the eventual fall of the Labour party. The books themselves (A View from the Foothills and Decline & Fall) received much acclaim, but condensing 11 years of political life and 1000 pages into a two-hour production is no mean feat. Michael Chaplin has done so with great success, creating a rapid-fire script that only makes the moments of reflection all the more poignant.
John Hodgkinson and Hywel Morgan in A Walk On Part at Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne
John Hodgkinson’s Chris Mullin is impressive - astute, doubting, witty, and above all decent. “Has ambition triumphed over principle?” he asks himself, and yet we find it has not. The image of this complex, compromised man lingers long after the play ends.
The four other actors take on a cast of 96 characters, from the instantly recognisable Tony Blair ‘The Man’ (Hywel Morgan) and John Prescott (Jim Kitson), to Sasha, a young refugee facing deportation (Tracy Gillman) and Mullin’s sympathetic wife, Ngoc (Phillippa Wilson).
The key to the production’s success is the sense of balance. Direction is taut. There are no big dramatic moments, but more potently understated ones. All actors remain on stage throughout and switch between characters in the blink of an eye. The script juxtaposes the casual banter of Whitehall with the desperate pleas of Mullin’s Sunderland constituents - comedy with sincerity, and, ultimately, Mullin’s lofty ambitions with his lesser achievements. Honest, funny and revealing - a great night out.