With The Pitmen Painters currently playing at the Duchess, Newcastle’s Live Theatre has sent another fine production to keep it company in the capital.
Adapted from Chris Mullin’s diaries - a Peypsian insight into the New Labour years - A Walk on Part is a faithful, funny and affectionate portrait of a man who somehow kept his head while others’ were rolling all around him.
It’s a dense evening. An accompanying ‘glossary of characters’ lists over 50 names, from the usual suspects (Blair, Brown, Prescott et al) to some more surprising cameos, the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts among them.
A cast of five, led by John Hodgkinson as Mullin, sit on two rows of chairs, Whose Line is it Anyway-style, popping up to enact scenes from the diaries with the rapid-fire speed necessary to ensure that well over a decade is covered.
This may not sound a wholly original staging technique, and indeed it is not, but like the protagonist himself, Max Roberts’ production has a sense of old fashioned reliability and underpinning integrity that shine through despite the lack of presentational gloss.
Hodgkinson makes a fine Mullin - his shoulders hunched, his suit ill-fitting - even if his facial resemblance is tenuous at best. He captures the soft yet impotently enraged voice of the diaries, a man who reacts to losing his ministerial position by "murdering snails" in his back garden.
Of the supporting cast, Hywel Morgan stands out for his superb mimicry of Blair, among many others, while Jim Kitson grabs many of the biggest laughs as Brown and Prescott.
By compressing the three diary volumes into one, adaptor Michael Chaplin has done an enviable editing job even if it slightly overflows; it could be pruned by a further 15 minutes at least.
But that is to take nothing away from a highly entertaining evening that should please fans of satire, theatre, and Mullin alike.