Saturday, 10 March 2018

This House

“This house is a circus, berserk as fuck 
We tend to see that as a perk, though”
-          Arctic Monkeys

And so to the theatre. I have been to see James Graham’s rather fine political play ‘This House’. Funny, thought provoking and well-acted I would urge anyone in the UK to catch it while it’s on tour. Anyone outside the UK won’t understand anything, which brings me to the main point: it casts a really embarrassing light on our particular form of democracy. Whether a government stands or falls shouldn't really depend on wheeling terminally ill people into Westminster on trolleys. The story regarding Frank 'abstain in person' Maguire being plied with drink and locked in a cupboard was certainly current at the time, whether true or not. There has to be a more rational, dare I say modern, way of doing it. In one small move in the right direction it has just been agreed that MPs on parental leave can make use of proxy votes. Welcome, sort of, to the twenty first century.

In fairness some of the events – which I am old enough to have lived through – were so bizarre that any system of governance would have struggled to deal with them.  Considering that the scenery mainly consists of the whips offices plus a few benches to represent the House of Commons they manage to very effectively portray the whole John Stonehouse affair including re-enacting his pretend drowning on a beach in Florida. And whilst I have no idea whether Audrey Wise was as terrifying as made out to be here, the script does allow her to demonstrate that sometimes principles matter; there was a spontaneous round of applause when she did so. From where I stood then, and indeed stand now, getting arrested on the Grunwick picket line was a source of pride rather than shame. In fact I’m pretty sure that Shirley Williams – on a very different wing of the party – also picketed; as did I.

As did he

I’m not old enough to have actually met any of the players in the action, although one of them’s son-in-law was the chap responsible for sending me to post-invasion Grenada a few years later. The actor playing him didn’t look old enough, but then we were all so young in those days. Speaking of the cast, there are nineteen of them (plus musicians whose changing hair styles between acts reflect the fact that the 1970s weren’t exactly homogeneous), which inevitably increases the likelihood of sitting there asking oneself where one has previously seen some of them. The answer – again for UK readers – is the Oak Furniture Land adverts; apparently there's a sale on if you get down there quick.

"We all know what parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it." - Robert Louis Stevenson

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