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Review Round-Ups

Did the critics love James Graham's new Labour play?

Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig star in this new comedy

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage


"As its title suggests, this is both a history of the Labour party and a love story. It is a heartfelt political analysis and a laugh-till-you-cry West End comedy. It is a balancing act of considerable sophistication and skill – and it is absolutely wonderful."

"Graham has great fun with our knowledge of the future... He also crafts a series of brilliant comic moments. One featuring identical aerosol cans and a singing snowman is worthy of Alan Ayckbourn at his very best."

"In comparison with Graham's other successes, This House and Ink, the play perhaps suffers from its concentration on the tribal politics of Labour rather than the currents of a broader spectrum."

"Under Jeremy Herrin's graceful direction, Freeman and Greig are magnificent. Greig is simply extraordinary. She combines almost perfect comic timing with an ability to appear entirely natural on stage. Her ability to convey suppressed but profound feeling is incredibly powerful."

Michael Billington, Guardian


"James Graham... not only provides a portrait of the historic ups and downs of the Labour party; he also charts, with surprising tenderness, a turbulent relationship between an MP and his constituency agent – beautifully played by Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig – in a way that recalls Much Ado About Nothing."

"Jeremy Herrin's ebullient production, for the Michael Grandage Company and Headlong, makes rich use of film footage to record Labour's fluctuating fortunes and is sparklingly acted."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


''Martin Freeman is Lyons, perfectly catching his mix of playfulness and sincerity — and particularly good at reacting to abuse. Tamsin Greig makes [Jean] wonderfully quirky and abrupt — yet with a hint of vulnerability always peeping out between the sarcastic barbs."

"As we travel back to the early Nineties, and then forward again to the present, the characters articulate their conflicting political views in ways that never feel forced. Jeremy Herrin's at first rather muted production uses projected news footage to stir the audience's nostalgia — and also its qualms about episodes such as the decision to intervene in Iraq."

"Like all Graham's work this is diligently researched and informative. At times sitcommy contrivance swamps satirical sharpness. But in its brightest moments this nearly three-hour show is an inventive hybrid of Much Ado About Nothing, Yes Minister and Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"One of the few compensations for the permanent political shitstorm we seem to now live in is the rise of playwright James Graham, whose witty, agile dramas about the way our country is run have unexpectedly proven to be box office gold."

"Though naturally heavily rooted in historical fact... Labour of Love features an entirely fictional set of characters, which very much allows Graham to get in touch with his inner Richard Curtis."

"A huge help are the terrific performances from Freeman and Greig. They're very different characters – him slick and metrosexual, her bolshy and exaggeratedly folksy. Greig, in particular, is enormously impressive, nailing her East Mids accent and playing totally against type in a role she only stepped into as a last-minute replacement for Sarah Lancashire."

Tim Bano, The Stage


"Few living playwrights get to see two of their new plays run concurrently in the West End. But with this offering, James Graham, the doyen of British political playwriting, has lost a little of the magic touch that has sustained him for the last few years."

"...this is a safe seat of a play. Several of the weakly satirical jokes feel like they've been borrowed from old episodes of Have I Got News for You, the few plot turns there are feel contrived and the love story the play promises is a bit tacked on."

"Only in the last quarter does the play come together, with some thrilling speeches on centrism vs the hard left. Graham can certainly pack a great deal of power into very short lines. When it attempts humour or, worse, satire, the punchlines are visible from far away and the play suffers. "

Labour of Love runs at the Noel Coward Theatre until 2 December.

Book tickets for Labour of Love