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As Election Looms, Plays Focus on MP Expenses

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With the election due to take place on or before 3 June 2010, two new plays are tackling one of the biggest political scandals of modern times - the revelations regarding MPs expenses.

First up is satire Stiffed!, which is written by journalists John Higginson and Clodagh Hartley. Both were based at the House of Commons during the scandal - Higginson as Metro's political editor and Hartley as The Sun's Whitehall Editor.

Running at west London's Tabard Theatre from 14 April to 9 May 2010, it promises “a front row seat on the expenses scandal alongside the inner workings of parliament, press, and politicians on the eve of the General Election”.

Directed by Dan Herd, Stiffed! follows the tale of the progressive new Tory MP Quentin Dellaware. Keen to make a difference, he is swiftly shown the status quo by his old school chum George Moore-Lys. Meanwhile, Labour front-bencher Paula Stiff is pressing for a fairer Britain, while young Sally Pauper, an aspiring journalist, aims to make her mark by uncovering the biggest parliamentary story since the gunpowder plot.

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com about the background of the project, writer John Higginson said: "I was having a meal with Clodagh at the height of the scandal, and we said to each other 'this will be a play one day', then we thought 'well why don't we do it?'

"It's a very well-covered story, so we couldn't write a play telling people what they already knew. The jokes about duck islands and cleaning moats are already out there, so we decided to go one further and try and get into the minds of the MPs. It was almost as if these revelations were like bombs raining down on them day after day - it was a war-like atmosphere, with the MPs at war with the journalists."

Higginson also revealed that it was a scramble to get the play on pre-election, as they feared the scandal would have died down if they left it too late. They also chose the Tabard for its proximity to Westminster - "it's 20 minutes on the tube, so I'm hoping a few of them will take a break from campaigning to come and see it" he said.

No Expense Spared

Taking a more farcical look at the scandal – which included the infamous 'duck island' revelation and has so far led to criminal charges being brought against four MPs – is No Expense Spared, which runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre from 25 May to 26 June 2010.

Written by Richard Stirling (Over My Shoulder), it looks at the “domestic shenanigans” behind the closed doors of Westminster Village, as MPs and their families struggle to cope with the fall-out of the scandal. Casting and director details are still to be announced, though producer James Ramsey told Whatsonstage.com the company will be "all-star".


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