It’s a very familiar scene. The Lib Dems are in coalition government with the Tories. The Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, Matt Cooper is struggling. Thom Tuck as Cooper squirms, wriggles, cajoles, pleads, hectors, curses, shouts and whispers to great comic effect – every inch a senior politician out of control and his depth in the time honoured Jim Hacker tradition. It’s a real tour de force for Tuck who dominates the stage and is rarely off it.
As Cooper’s foil, the softly spoken (actually some of her punch lines are inaudible) Jessica Reagan as Special Advisor, Claudia Hood gives us a long suffering, all knowing, perceptive woman whose stage stillness counterbalances Tuck’s antics well. She too is a near continual on stage presence.
Phill Jupitus is fun as the gliding, oily, camp, outrageous but rapier-like Sir Francis Whitford, especially in his scenes with Jo Caulfield who plays a gravelly, nothing-much-gets-past-me Chief Whip whose tolerance of Cooper is severely tested. All eight cast members are strong with fine comic timing and there are some nice cameos such as John Dorney as a manic, alcoholic by-election candidate and Alistair Barrie as the blunt northern Energy Secretary who towers over Cooper and resigns on a point of political principle – a quality he accurately accuses Cooper of lacking altogether.
The video dimension (by Super Mega Action Plus) on an upstage screen is a good idea. First we get a montage of (real) news clips of the last election to set the scene. Thereafter the screen simply informs the audience, as a film might, where and when each scene is set.
The real star of this very funny and well paced piece, however, is Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky’s incisive script – political satire as an art form. Of course the idea isn’t original but this is an example of the genre at its best, slickly directed by Salinsky, The subject matter is so close to home and the jokes – dozens and dozens of them – beautifully observed.