This House & Rhinoceros

Saw a couple of plays in Edinburgh recently:

This House is about the efforts of whips to maintain the shaky Labour government from 1974-79. When it premiered in 2012, a time when the most exciting thing in British politics was the coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it doubtless felt like an exciting, topical play about the idealism and reality of politics – hence the rave reviews.

Between Brexit and Trump, shit has gotten very real, so the play has lost some of its power in its 2018 incarnation. But that’s not the only reason why it left me cold. Fundamentally, it’s a story about Parliament, not politics. You never hear from a single person who isn’t a politician; you never spend a second outside of Westminster. It feels clammy and paternalistic. And I’m not sure that I care for that kind of story any more, not given the state of our politics lately.

(I also didn’t like the play’s fast and loose treatment of the arithmetic of the 1974 elections and just how governments are formed, but whatever.)

Rhinoceros was written in 1959 and is essentially about fascism and Nazism – note-perfect for our times, sadly. I enjoyed it very much and if there’s a production near you, I recommend you see it.

Here’s what I tweeted at the time:

Act 1: hey I thought this was meant to be about fascism, wtf?

Act 2: whoa whoa too much, pull it back!

Act 3: ok this is perfect

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