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Review of The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre

The Duck HouseThe Duck House is a brand new play by political comedy writers Dan Patterson and Colin Swash. The play centres on the fictional character, Robert Houston, a Labour backbencher played by Ben Miller. Houston is an MP who loves his job so much that he is willing to change sides from Labour to Tory, just to further his position and increase the benefits that come with his new title.

The play opens in Robert Houston’s living room, a lavish and tastefully decorated room, which immediately gives the impression that this man has money…or at least an expense account that knows no limits.

Robert is on the brink of swapping his political beliefs and donning a new colour when all of a sudden, it happens, the media frenzy that is ‘the expenses scandal.’ Living in a house full of luxurious items from oil paintings to hanging baskets and the all important duck house in the middle of the pond, it would seem pretty much everything has a receipt that has been claimed on. Surrounded by receipts and still not cleared for his new job, Robert is expecting a visit from Sir Norman Cavendish, played by Simon Shepherd, for his final interview. In a desperate attempt to hide all evidence of unnecessary claiming we begin to see the Houston household unfold and erupt in slapstick antics. Enlisting the help of his, wife, son and housekeeper, the pressure is on for Robert to appear squeaky clean and secure his job. Just when Robert thinks he can see some light at the end of the tunnel it transpires that his interview will be concluded at his city apartment in Westminster. This is bad news for Robert as he hardly ever lives there, in fact the only person that does is his teenage son who is studying at university. This then leads nicely into act two, where we see even more outrageous goings on, that will leave you stunned and laughing even harder but not surprised as it is after all a comedy about politicians.

Miller is superb in this role, he has created a truly memorable character with a perfect blend of physical comedy and slick, well timed, razor sharp comic dialogue that will have you laughing even when he is stood still and saying nothing. He is supported by an equally excellent cast, Nancy Carroll plays Felicity, Roberts devoted wife, who seems to have benefited from his expense account just as much. Carroll has a strong stage presence and balances out Millers energetic performance perfectly with her dry, quick witted and calm, collected characterisation. Another fantastic addition to the cast is Debbie Chazen who plays the Houston’s housekeeper, Ludmilla, a strong, opinionated Russian woman. Chazen delivers a strong comedy performance and has some of the more outrageous dialogue, making her an absolute pleasure to watch.

This highly comical play has created a new genre of farce, new-school farce if you will, that will leave you laughing and grinning for the entire duration. This satirical, honest and tongue in cheek script simply verbalises what we are all thinking in the best possible way through comedy. I truly recommend you buy your tickets as soon as possible, this really is a must see and has everything you could want from a West-End production.

Review by Haydn James

The Duck House
Cast: Ben Miller, Nancy Carroll, Diana Vickers, Debbie Chazen, James Musgrave and Simon Shepherd.

The Duck House, written by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash, is billed as “an outrageous new laugh out loud comedy set in a world of dodgy receipts, dodgier deceit, and pure Parliamentary panic”. The scene is May 2009, when Gordon Brown’s government is in meltdown and a General Election is only one year away. Labour backbencher Robert Houston (Miller) loves being an MP and will do anything to save his seat – including change sides. All is going well with his switch from red to blue until, the expenses scandal breaks. The title is a reference to the ‘duck house’ claimed by Tory MP Sir Peter Viggers that came to symbolise the scandal.

Tuesday 10th December 2013


  • Haydn James

    Haydn trained as an actor at Rose Bruford Drama School. He has worked nationally and internationally in theatre and as an actor and entertainer in some of London’s top tourist attractions. He is now training to be a drama and performing arts lecturer. Haydn has always had a passion and love for the theatre and enjoys watching as much theatre as possible. Follow on Twitter @HaydnJames82

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