Fringe Box



Review: The Duck House – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 31 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 31 Oct, 2013

The Duck House image 1By Victoria Lazarevic

The Duck House is simply hilarity, at MPs’ expense(s).

This light hearted, farcical play is at the beginning of its tour before hitting the West End. Starring Ben Miller, the play was simply very, very funny portraying events that most felt were very, very shameful.

The cast of six actors held our attention from beginning to end in an exhaustive and daffy portrayal of the 2009 MP’s expense scandal.

The Duck House is named as such as it became the symbol of the biggest political scandal for a generation: the bizarre and opulent claims made by MP’s exposed by the Daily Telegraph in 2009.

It is the first play written by Colin Swash and Dan Patterson, who share the comic pedigree of Have I Got News for You, Mock the week and Whose line is it Anyway. It certainly lived up to expectations.

The play opens the night in 2009 when the expense scandal broke. Robert Houston MP, played by Ben Miller, can see no future with the Labour party and wants to jump ship to the Torys to keep his seat and obtain a promised cabinet position. Sir Norman Cavendish, a true-blue old school Tory MP (played by Simon Shepherd) is sent by ‘Dave(id)’, to determine the suitability of Houston to join the Tory party.

No time was wasted getting the perfectly cast Ben Miller on stage. His sardonic and effortless humour, natural mirth coupled with with his foolish energy, less apparent in his role as a grumpy detective on BBC1’s Death in Paradise, entertained the audience from beginning to end.

The visit from Sir Norman to complete the switch comes at the time the expenses scandal hits, initiating the furious and hilarious attempts to disguise MP Houston’s undue spending. There are several candid allusions to the actual and bizarre spending that took place. Simon Shepherd brilliantly held true to his Cavendish character, whatever the outrageous exploits the risqué writers threw at him throughout the play.

Felicty and Ben Miller

Nancy Carroll as wife Felicity and Ben Miller Robert Houston MP

Ben Miller had a perfect partnership with his on stage wife, Felicity (Nancy Carroll) who added a comic exposure of a blasé MP’s wife, unashamedly enjoying the fruits of what New Labour had to offer.

Seb Houston played by James Musgrave successfully depicted the youth of today, his head always in something: ear phones, computers, mobile phones, to name but a few. There were to my mind too many uses of an adjective that rhymed with the kind of house in the title. It might be to modern way but good humour, of this standard, really does not need to rely on four letter words.

The Duck House image 9

Sir Norman Cavendish played by Simon Shepherd

The skilful writers had obviously predicted the yo-yoing of audience reaction. On one occasion when the list of expenses grew too long and the laughs subsided (we were remembering this was our money that had been misspent), relief came in the form of Ludmilla, (Debbie Chazen) their ballsy Russian Cleaner. She was not to be messed with and effortlessly broke any audience tension by simply, creating her own.

Meanwhile, and all along, we were treated to Miller’s bombardment of hilarious gags, and double entendre’s.

If the first half served the frappé cappuccino, the second half brought the froth with the chocolate on top. The scene changes to the London flat, of course, and slapstick was thrown in abundance amongst the satire.

A more ‘physical’, shall we say, depiction of Sir Normans’ own appetite for spending public money ensued and this scene involved the young actress Diana Vickers, who actually during the 2009 expense claim debacle, was a semi-finalist in the popular X Factor show. But in her role as Holly, Seb’s fiancé, she was a striking contrast to the personality her sweet and innocent voice led us to expect. She might have suffered for her art but did so with dignity.

Do take your sense of humour and open mind to see The Duck House. If you don’t get to see it at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, it has sold out for its present run until November 2, it is on a 5 week tour around the country. It previews November 27 at the Vaudeville Theatre, London.

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Responses to Review: The Duck House – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    What can one say, a sell out on Saturday night and well deserved. I have never laughed so much since David Jason in No Sex Please We’re British back in ’72.

    From now on you will have to pay London prices, plus train fare, because after tomorrow (Sat) it’s going to the West End. But you won’t begrudge the cost.

    Amazingly funny night out, even if the four letter adjectives were a little too plentiful.

  2. Matt Brown Reply

    November 2, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    It’s slapstick oops-where’s-my-trousers farce rather than satire. No cliché left unturned!

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