The Duck House

Malvern Theatres

*****

IT was only a matter of time before the MPs' expenses scandal would be transformed into a satire, so who better to pen it than two stalwarts of TV topical comedy panel shows.

Colin Swash has been a regular writer and producer for Have I Got News For You as well as a Private Eye contributor, while Dan Patterson has been responsible for jokes on Mock The Week and Room 101 and created Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Given these credentials, it explains why the play is overflowing with political wit and acerbic one-liners that provide no mercy to MPs of any persuasion, Rupert Murdoch and The Daily Mail.

It is even so close to the bone at times that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are central to many of the jokes.

At the heart of this fast-moving farce is self-centred, greedy MP Robert Houston, who is preparing to jump ship from Gordon Brown's Labour to the Tories in May 2009 when the expenses scandal breaks and threatens his plans, as he has been one of the worst offenders.

Comedian Ben Miller uses the charm he recently showed in BBC series Death in Paradise to get the audience behind the deeply-flawed minister as he grapples to keep his career.

While adding to the confusion are his well-meaning but equally misguided wife (played by Olivier Award-winning actress Nancy Carroll), dopey son (James Musgrave) and wonderfully vengeful crazy Russian housemaid Ludmilla (Debbie Chazen).

The plot spirals into madcap escapades featuring pandas, manure and the said duck house as they try to keep the family's over-indulgent expenses from senior Conservative, Sir Norman, giving Houston the once over and reporting back to "Dave".

This Tory peer is brought to life excellently by Simon Shepherd, who has one of the most memorable scenes involving a Camembert and Angela Merkel that is as hilarious as it is disturbing.

There's also a second-half role for Diane Vickers, who some of you may remember as an X Factor semi-finalist some years ago and has now turned her hand pretty well to acting.

This play is not only funny, clever and takes no prisoners. It is also a long-awaited political farce that will fill a void for those missing TV satire The Thick Of It. To 09-11-13.

Alison Brinkworth 

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