By Saba Shiraz aka Kali Rayt
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 387

The Duck House

This article is over 10 years, 4 months old
Vaudeville Theatre, London, until 29 March 2014
Issue 387

“I don’t want a real job, I want to be an MP!” The ironic words of Ben Miller’s ill-fated character Robert Houston echoes through the theatre to be met with a loud and hearty laugh from the audience.

The words pose the crucial questions. What does it really mean to be an MP and what is their purpose? What sort of heartless individuals would spend hard earned taxpayers’ money on duck houses, manure and glittery toilet seats?

The Duck House is a highly satirical, fast-paced comedy. It seeks to further undermine the disgraceful MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009 through farcical, slapstick humour and consistent witty one liners. Writers Colin Swash and Dan Patterson are well known for their topical jokes at the expense of politicians, but this biting take on the scandal reaches new highs in its pounding mockery of parliamentary democracy.

The story follows the cushy life of a particularly pathetic and opportunistic Robert Houston (Ben Miller). He is a Labour backbencher who is more than ready to sell his soul to the Tories in a desperate attempt to keep hold of the luxuries that the life of an MP has to offer.

Sadly for Robert, the day that he is to be interviewed by Tory Grandee Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd) is the day that the expenses scandal breaks out. He has the loyal support of his presentable wife Felicity (Nancy Carroll) who considers herself vastly skilled in redecorating the house, shopping and general subservience, but remains little more than his devoted representative.

Unfortunately for Robert and his wife, their unruly teenage son Seb (James Musgrave) finds it hard to fit in with the fake respectably of his father. He is not so keen on his father’s foolish decisions and plunges his family into a massively sticky situation through his irresponsible behaviour.

To make things even more disastrous for Robert, he must deal with his hugely reactionary maid Ludmilla (Debbie Chazen) who vows to take revenge on him after he chucks her out on to the streets in yet another frantic effort to win his position as a Tory MP.

Many critics have deemed the style of humour in this play to be uncomplicated and cheap. But this misses the point, for the style reflects the cheapness of our own government. Each slammed door, cake to the face and melodramatic scream was met with an enormous laugh from the audience, who appeared to enjoy director Terry Johnson’s highly slapstick take on MPs’ lives. Their entire careers are portrayed as one big joke, not to be taken seriously.

The Duck House captures the absurd reality of MPs’ daily lives and asks whether these people really know what they are doing. This fantastically funny play encourages us to have a good laugh at the expense of them and mainstream parties. It also inspires us to have a serious think about whether these people really deserve any control over our society at all.

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