Just four years ago a bomb was detonated below the foundations of parliamentary democracy that was far more powerful than Guy Fawkes attempted, when many MPs were exposed as having their snouts in the trough of claiming expenses for everything from glitter toilet seats and hanging baskets to a massage chair, bags of horse manure and a duck house.
Diana Vickers and Ben Miller in The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre Photo: Tristram Kenton
All of these, and more, are being claimed by Ben Miller’s fictitious Labour MP Robert Houston in this deviously well-plotted debut play by TV writers Colin Swash and Dan Patterson, who have a strong track record on such topical shows as Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week.
The roll-call of (dis)honour brings in lots of real-life MPs, so it helps to have a passing acquaintance with them to get all the jokes (so it’s not necessarily a play for foreign tourists). But it is great to see a new commercial play that’s set around real events and poking such merciless satirical fun at them. There hasn’t been a play quite as good about modern politics since Alistair Beaton’s Feelgood that was seen at Hampstead in 2000.
Director Terry Johnson propels the farce with relentless momentum as the MP - who is in the process of trying to defect to the Tories - is visited at home for vetting by a Tory grandee Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd). His wife, son and Russian domestic servant Ludmilla (working without a work permit), played respectively by Nancy Carroll, James Musgrave and Debbie Chazen, all have their own secrets that could undermine him, too.
The result is a comic tonic to brighten the cold night winter evenings. MPs should buy tickets to see it - but not, perhaps, put in expenses claims to do so.