The Duck House (review).You’d be quackers to miss this political parody.
I think that it’s safe to say that the public were wholly incredulous when the MPs’ expenses scandal broke.
Each day brought new revelations until the entire country lost faith in the honesty of their elected government representatives – whether they were tarred with the same brush or not.
Soon the affair resembled a badly constructed farce – and one ripe, sooner or later, for dramatizing on stage or screen.
Just before the Christmas madness got under way I had the chance of enjoying the political satire The Duck House at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, which concerns itself with the dirty dealings of one of our notable MPs.
It’s not perfect but it made me chuckle loudly throughout. It’s best to have a little knowledge of the debacle before entering the auditorium and the programme notes provide a great insight. There’s even a mention of our own disgraced Luton Labour MP Margaret Moran.
The entire incident, which filled reams of pages in the national press for week after week, became so absurd that you couldn’t make it up. It’s a miracle it didn’t topple the government.
But perhaps that’s the problem. The public generally expect their government, of whatever political persuasion, to be corrupt so it would be a disappointment if something sleazy wasn’t uncovered by those nasty, muck-raking, investigative journalists.
Ben Miller plays smarmy champagne socialist Labour MP Robert Houston who is on the cusp of dumping his party for a nice blue Tory tie and a place in David’s cabinet.
But before he gets the nod he must convince a Conservative grandee that he is beyond reproach – well, as much as any MP can be.
Of course, he’s not, and he soon finds himself trying to cover up his expenses fiddles with the reluctant help of his uncomprehending wife, who can’t see what all the fuss is about. After all, doesn’t every MP do it as a perk of the job?
Miller, and his “wife” Nancy Carroll’s Felicity, make a slick double act with the gags rolling fast and furiously. Occasionally the MP goes a little too quackers, like a Basil Fawlty on speed, but he’s a hoot.
The Tory big wig sent to interview Houston, has, it turns out, secrets of his own (gosh, such a shock to see 1990s TV heartthrob Simon Shepherd in a new light – I’ll never think of him as a romantic lead ever again).
There are times when the comedy is a little too smug. Miller’s monologues to the audience and his knowing asides are fine if the audience are au fait with the details of the scandal but less so when most of the theatre-goers are overseas tourists.
And throughout there are moments of pure farce which I found wildly funny - but possibly because, being a member of the press, I felt in on the jokes.
The problem with The Duck House is that it’s really a one-gag plot that’s repeated throughout until it’s done to death. The play, by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash, comes across as a 25-minute episode of a satirical TV show rather than a full-length stage play requiring a bit more in the way of depth and detail.
But it makes for an enjoyable night’s entertainment and it gives you the chance to relive some of the more bizarre claims made by our honourable members (you can even earn yourself a free hanging basket!).
The Duck House runs until March 29. For tickets call the box office 0844 412 4663 or go online www.nimaxtheatres.com