Performed in the Farrer Theatre, Mr Rogers’ production of James Graham’s This House transported the audience to the truly convincing tumultuous years of the 1974 general election, all the way to the 1979 vote of no confidence. Not only were the acting and costumes effective in achieving this, but the set also captured the very core of UK politics; the Houses of Parliament. The Elizabeth Tower or Big Ben, bearing the striking illuminated clock face, loomed over the stage throughout.
The play records the floundering of the Labour government in this four-year period as it attempts to survive in a ruthless parliament. Told through the offices of the Labour and Tory whips, class differences are constantly drawn. The disparity of the two parties’ characters portray the imagined cliques within the government. However, as the play continues, this becomes clearer and more refined, revealing the truth as we are eventually exposed to the personalities and actions of the varied characters. From the very beginning of the performance, the audience is immediately thrown into the parliamentary system, which is questioned throughout. As we watch the fractured oppositions constantly ping-ponging attacks and defences, questions are raised about whether our current system is fit for the United Kingdom.
Crucially, the sparring between Labour Deputy Whip, Walter Harrison (Ludo P) and Tory Whip, Jack Weatherill (Luke H), provide a central focus to the progression of events, and their rivalry was portrayed brilliantly. Ann Taylor (Freddie R) was a rare female in the boys’ club and addressed her outsider status with humour. Chief Labour Whip, Michael Cocks (Luca M) also deserves a mention; his body language and quiet demeanour articulated the stress of the job, constantly sitting on the edge, only calmed by his silent, lonely visits to gaze at the clock. On the other side, Humphrey Atkins (Henry P), in his silky suit, was a witty and suave counterpoint to Walter; notably, one of his hobbies is shooting. Special mention must go to Harry A-J, playing the MP of St Helens, whose moustache fell off during the middle of his performance on the final night, which the audience responded to most positively. Well done to all the boys in Manor House for their brilliant performances.