National Theatre Live’s “This House”

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Continuing the National Theatre at Home series, noting how important theatrical staged arts are to many people, National Theatre Live presents James Graham’s This House. Beginning Thursday, 28 May 2020, NT Live’s 2013 staged performance will be available to watch free on YouTube.

Graham, who’s works include Albert’s Boy (2005), Tory Boyz (2008), and Finding Neverland (2014), is possibly best known for the recently televised miniseries Quiz. Quiz, like Graham’s other television credits, were originally written as stage plays.

The This House production, directed by accomplished theatre director Jeremy Herrin, stars Reece Dinsdale, Charles Edwards, Phil Daniels, Julian Wadham, Vincent Franklin, Andrew Havill, David Hounslow, Ed Hughes, Helena Lymbery, Lauren O’Neil, Richard Ridings, Giles Taylor, and Rupert Vansittart.

This House
Image Credit: IMDb.com

Picture it: Britain, 1974. There is a hung parliament. A hung parliament, for people not familiar with parliamentary political systems, is where no single political party wins an absolute majority of seats.

Infighting and backstabbing, something which the television miniseries House of Cards, To Play the King, and The Final Cut exemplifies perfectly, isn’t uncommon in British political circles.

British political parties, especially when there is a hung parliament, are prone to battle each other for supremacy. The divide in British politics is far more adversarial than that seen in the United States House of Representatives.

There is something quintessentially British about the way we see these characters vying for power. Their desire to shape the future of the nation doesn’t come without a significant cost to the general public.

The 1970’s, something that political historians might be familiar with, Britain’s parliament saw significant changes. The year This House is set saw two General Elections, the first in February and the second in October, held in the United Kingdom. It was the first of the two General Elections that resulted in a hung parliament.

To win a majority in the UK’s Westminster system, currently speaking, 326 of the 650 seats are needed. In 1974, noting how there were fewer seats in the house of Commons that that seen today, there were 635 seats. Consequently, because of this, 318 seats were needed to secure an overall majority.

Whilst the political map clearly shows Conservative Party blue dominating much of the United Kingdom, the Harold Wilson led Labour Party saw victory with a total of 301 seats secured. The Labour Party, based on the number of seats in the 1974 house of Commons, was 17 seats short of an overall majority.

As we see in Graham’s stage play, something that unmistakably lends itself to the period, there are very few rules which aren’t bent and or completely abandoned. In unambiguous terms, noting how many politicians are prone to behave in public, This House shows their true colours and it isn’t always blue or red.