A political satire, The Duck House stars Ben Miller as your typical slithering MP Robert Houston, jumping ship from an especially unpopular Labour Party over to the far better off and slightly less unpopular Tory Party during the Expenses Scandal of 2009.
This play achieved some rip-roaring laughter from the audience, playing between writers Dan Patterson (Mock The Week) and Colin Swash’s (HIGNFY, Private Eye) sharp verbal wit and the slightly less successful physical humour that seemed a more tired take on ‘One Man Two Guvnors’. A TV Sitcom for stage, it did drag over its two hour run-time, but it’s great to see a contemporary issue satirised in the West End.
We meet Houston and his wife as they’re awaiting a visit from the imposing Tory grandee, Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd) for his blessing as a new Tory MP, just as news is spreading of the MP’s expenses scandal. Queue lots of hyped running around and his severe Russian housekeeper Ludmilla (Debbie Chasen) stuffing the contents of the politician’s house in a cupboard and a foot-stool filled with receipts. Where the satire cut, the surrounding characters were sadly left a little two-dimensional and reliant on cheap gags. However this didn’t stop the audience giggling at his slightly spaced son, Seb (James Musgrave) admitting to far too many politically damaging secrets while dressed as a panda. But it all starts to go horribly wrong for the family when they find they own a Duck House.
Carrying the show, Ben Miller knows how to get an audience response and hopefully as the run continues he’ll be able to play more on the satire and relationship with his wife Felicity (Nancy Carroll). Carroll and Shepherd do seem a little worn out by their lack of scope, whereas Diana Vickers as Seb’s secret fiancee, Holly is lost on stage and perhaps a somewhat unusual casting choice.
‘The Duck House’ is great for a light-humoured night out getting to giggle at an uncomfortably contemporary political issue, it could have been something a lot better if it was less afraid and made full use of a generally strong cast. If only the play was condensed into the first half, I would have loved to have seen what happened next.
One thing this play definitely wins is best promotional giveaway. I’m now the proud owner of a little #theduckhouse rubber duckie and there were a good few people tweeting and instagram-ing their ducks infiltrating the theatre!
So not quite a quacking night out, but it didn’t completely sink. (Sorry, I had to…)
Review by Isabella Van Braeckel
Content updated 1st April 2014