Review Roundup: THE DUCK HOUSE at West End's Vaudeville Theatre
Ben Miller leads an all-star cast in the West End premiere ofThe Duck House, an outrageous new comedy set in a world of dodgy receipts, dodgier deceit, and pure Parliamentary panic. It opened at the Vaudeville Theatre on 10th December 2013, and stars Olivier Award Winning Actress Nancy Carroll, Debbie Chazen, James Musgrave,Simon Shepherd and Diana Vickers.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney of whatsonstage.com writes: Strenuously drawing together other strands such as the MP's wife Felicity (gracefully done by Nancy Carroll) being shocked out of her delusions of grandeur - "At last we're Tories! No more bottles of Jacob's Creek" - and the homophobic Russian immigrant housekeeper Ludmilla (Debbie Chazen) turning traitor, the show dissolves in some deeply unfunny physical antics involving cupboards, slammed doors and a pair of giant panda costumes.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard says: The results are relentlessly daft, and Terry Johnson's direction ensures a steady flow of laughs. Miller often calls to mind John Cleese, with his perfect timing and manic movements. Nancy Carroll adds a touch of elegance as Houston's wife (although it's a role that hardly tests this sublime performer), while Debbie Chazen milks the brazen awfulness of Ludmilla... James Musgrave, who plays Houston's son Seb, is adept at looking both bored and bewildered, even when his girlfriend (a game Diana Vickers) is scooting around in the skimpiest of outfits. Meanwhile Simon Shepherd is at the centre of some especially cringe-inducing moments as the smooth yet compromised Cavendish, who behind his austere exterior isn't what he seems.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph writes: Patterson and Swash are best known for their work on television, including such shows as Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week, which gives you some idea of the kind of comedy on offer here. Yet the play's farcical plotting is as ingenious as the gags are lewd and crude, and Terry Johnson directs a ripely entertaining production that goes down a treat. Just don't expect anything subtle. This is political satire that uses a bludgeon, rather than a scalpel.
Ian Shuttleworth of the Financial Times says: Terry Johnson directs with equal attention to the broad farce and the sardonic one-liners; the physical business has the kind of precision I normally associate with Sean Foley as a director. Ben Miller makes an effective linchpin as an MP whose planned party switch from Labour to Conservative just as the expenses scandal breaks is endangered by his keen use of said facility; he embodies pretty much every reported excess, Labour or Tory, in one portmanteau of greed, culminating in the eponymous garden feature. Nancy Carroll is impregnably middle-class as his wife, and Debbie Chazen makes a wonderful Moscow-mafia housekeeper.
Paul Taylor of the Independent writes: It would be a mistake, though, to go to The Duck House expecting the savage indignation of trenchant political satire. The play treats the expenses brouhaha as fodder for a breezy, essentially good-natured farce, directed with crisp expertise by Terry Johnson. It begins in May 2009 and Labour backbencher, Robert Houston (excellent Ben Miller) is plotting to jump ship to the Conservatives. It should be painless process as this champagne socialist has no political convictions to speak of. "At last we can stop pretending!" exclaims his posh wife (Nancy Carroll). The one remaining hurdle is a visit from Tory grandee Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd).