The ironic thing about this new play surrounding the now infamous expenses scandal is at the same time the saddest, its foundation in truth. Watching the ridiculous behaviour of MP’s covering up, flipping houses and claiming for outrageous purchases (toilet seats, hanging baskets and of course a duck house) not to mention sexual dalliances the likes of which most of us have never dreamt of the realisation slowly dawns on you that this is a terrifyingly close reflection of the people running our country. Well to be fair I can’t guarantee the sexual dalliances have really happened as described here, but as for the rest they’re all well documented by now.
Ben Miller is Robert Houston, MP and is in the process of defecting from Gordon Browns ailing Labour party to the Conservatives in a shallow attempt to get into Government in any way that he can. As Tory grandee Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd) vets his credentials the expenses scandal hits and the frantic cover ups begin.
Written by Colin Swash and Dan Patterson both long serving writers and contributors to political TV shows like Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week, The Duck House comes with a great pedigree that’s for sure. Interestingly though rather than the cleverness and subtlety of satire they lean to farce thus taking away some of the bite that it could have.
That being said there is a relentless mocking of a vast list of our dear old members of Parliament, the biggest of course saved for Peter Viggers and his notorious duck house. Miller enjoys his knowing looks to the audience with each lampooning of another familiar name always followed by a wry smile or a withering look, a comic tool that can lose its humour with overuse though.
Feeding off the energy of Miller the supporting cast all do good work. Debbie Chazen as Russian housemaid Ludmilla pulls some of the best comic punches with her feisty Eastern European brusqueness. Diana Vickers mixes sex appeal and girl next door with her delicious Lancastrian accent caressing all the way and Nancy Carroll and James Musgrave support admirably as Millers Wife and Son respectively.
Simon Shepherd is reduced to ridiculous caricature as the belts and braces Tory, Sir Norman. Shepherd is a fine actor and you must wonder what part of him thought it would be a good idea to pop on a nappy and play such an absurd role. It is as he is being spanked with a copy of the Lisbon treaty by Vickers dressed as Angela Merkel that you realise this political hot potato has somehow lost its way.