The Duck House: From MPs expenses to Whitehall farce

ImageThe MPs expenses scandal exposed by the Daily Telegraph nearly five years ago  did more to damage the reputation of Parliament than anything else in recent history. There were hardly any MPs who had not put in some dodgy  or dubious claim and the repercussions are still being felt today as an ex Labour minister starts a six month jail sentence.

This spirited production of The Duck House now running at London’s Vaudeville theatre captures the panic felt by MPs at the time but  turns the whole proceedings into a series of jokes and a Whitehall farce in the tradition of Brian Rix before he became Lord Rix and a great campaigner for the mentally handicapped.

 Ben Miller, as the greedy money grabbing turncoat Labour MP,Robert Houston, with thousands of dodgy expenses receipts heads a cast often caught with their trousers down.

His wife  Felicity,is played by Nancy Carroll, a woman who can’t wait for hubbie’s defection to the Tories and gives a wonderful performance showing how inadequate she would be as an Mp’s secretary even if he is claiming for her. While their son James Musgrave, gives a remarkably good performance of as a gangly student staring at his laptop for much of the performance repeating the word ” fuck” as he reads his latest threatening emails  from the hoods because he can’t meet his gambling debts

There is also a  very loyal  Russian cook, Ludmilla, played by Debbie Chazen, who ends up campaigning for UKIP after being exposed for being employed without a work permit. Life has imitated art tonight (Feb 8) when Mark Harper, the immigration minister, resigned after it was revealed that he was employing a cleaner who had no right to stay in the UK permanently.

Then there is the straight man – David Cameron’s go between – Sir Norman Cavendish, played by Simon Shepherd. He is the man who gets covered in manure  as he negotiates Robert Houston’s switch from New Labour to the Tories. He is also found to have a secret life meeting a modern Miss Whiplash who improbably is also the girlfriend of the MP’s son. This might need updating now- Westminster gossip has  it that it is some  young Tory government advisers who like to visit Madams at the moment.

Spiced with a few up to date jokes – including a risque reference to David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks,( hacking trial lawyers please note,) the show is more farce and political banter than a contribution to the current debate.

Don’t go if you expect to be enlightened about MPs expenses, though all the examples are based on fact. Do go if you want a rollicking, funny, evening and enjoy farce. The subject was MPs’ expenses but  they could put together a farce on anything.

The review on this blog follows free press tickets. The theatre staff are also very helpful to disabled people providing transport to get wheelchair bound people  down to the stalls. Unfortunately they do not have a disabled toilet but have made arrangements for people to use one at a theatre next door.