WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Noel Coward Theatre
WHEN: 29/9, press night 3/10, booking to 2/12
It would be fair to say that author James Graham is on a bit of a roll, with not one but two plays running in the same street in the West End.
- Read on for reasons including why we wish Sarah Lancashire hadn’t pulled out of this play
Ink, his study of Rupert Murdoch and the rise of The Sun, transferred from the Almeida to the Duke Of York’s this month and is one of the funniest and most sharp plays of the year.
Labour of Love is the story of West Midlands MP David Lyons (Martin Freeman) and his agent Jean Whittaker (Tamsin Greig) told over 27 years.
They represent the two wings of the party, with Lyons very much New Labour Tony Blair, whose ascendency and departure is chronicled well here as the time shifts backwards in the first half and then forwards in the second.
Greig has many of the best lines as the heart and soul of her community casting a withering look at Lyons’ wife (a scene-stealing Rachael Stirling) who appears to have much in common with Cherie Blair. Particularly memorable is the scene where the lawyer is asked for advice about a work injury and assumes it is for the employer rather than the employee.
Greig is good as the agent but it’s a part that seems written with Sarah Lancashire in mind and so it’s a real shame that the actress pulled out of the production shortly before it opened, putting back the date of its first performance.
We last saw Martin Freeman as Richard III in a Jamie Lloyd production at Trafalgar Studios three years ago and he is much more comfortable in the new Labour MP’s shoes than he was with Shakespeare.
The best thing about Labour Of Love is its evocative use of election night footage and iconic tunes like D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better and the White Stripes song that has sparked chants of ‘Ooh, Jeremy Corbyn’.
The writing is sharp and, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but the plotting is not quite as tight as Graham’s most recent hits Ink and This House.