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No Expense Spared

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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This is a rather strange creation - watching it, you'd never believe that it's technically the most up-to-date political satire in London.

Joe McGann plays a generic recently elected Tory minister (we assume he's Tory, though it's never made explicit) who is setting up camp in his newly-acquired ministerial residence.

But there are skeletons in the closets and expenses receipts in the vases, as an unlikely series of events conspire to make his first day in office potentially his last. All around him, a cast of characters from the Wildean Lady June (Joanna McCallum) to the cockney song-spouting housekeeper 'Barrett' (Lisa Armytage), contribute in varying ways to a set-up that falls somewhere between Yes, Minister and Sailor, Beware!

Richard Stirling's script is peppered with puns - talks over a sewage workers' strike are “stagnating” - but fails to ring even a faint bell of truth. Perhaps that isn't the point, but when a play sets out to riff on a recent political scandal, it's not outrageous to expect a degree of contemporary authenticity.

This is farce masquerading as satire, but struggling to hold water as either. With subject matter as potentially rich as this, it's a shame that too often its themes get sunk beneath layers of dubious one-liners and incomprehensible plotting.

However, there are some spirited turns from the experienced cast - particularly the thundering McCallum - which may make this worth the expense for some.


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