The Duck House

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The Duck House
The Duck House.jpg
2013 production poster
Written by Dan Patterson
Colin Swash
Date premiered 23 October 2013 (2013-10-23)
Place premiered Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Genre Comedy Farce, Satire

The Duck House is a 2013 comedy farce play written by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash. It is based around the events of the 2009 UK parliamentary expenses scandal, and made its world premiere at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in October 2013, at the start of a five-week UK tour. The production then transferred to the West End's Vaudeville Theatre,[1] where it ran until 29 March 2014.[2]

Synopsis[edit]

The play is set in May 2009, one year before the General Election, Gordon Brown's Labour government is unpopular. Robert Houston is a Labour backbencher seeking to defect to the Conservatives to keep his seat, when the expenses scandal hits the papers the day before his interview with Sir Norman Cavendish to complete the switch. Houston is in trouble and so is his staff (his wife Felicity, his son Seb and his Russian housekeeper Ludmilla)[3] and somehow Seb's girlfriend Holly becomes involved with Sir Norman.[4][5][6] What follows is a comedy of errors as Houston and his family try to cover their expenses claims including a massage chair,[7] a glittered toilet seat,[8] hanging baskets and an ornamental duck house.[9]

Production history[edit]

The Duck House is a farce[10] political satire written by Mock the Week's producer Dan Patterson and Have I Got News for You writer Colin Swash.[11] Set during Gordon Brown's tenure as Prime Minister[12] it is based on the events of the 2009 UK parliamentary expenses scandal.[3][13] The show's title is in reference to one specific MP's expense claim – that of Sir Peter Viggers of £1,645 for a duck house at his constituency home.[14][14][15] The production is directed by Terry Johnson[16] featuring set and costume design by Lez Brotherston, sound by John Leonard and lighting by Mark Henderson.[17] The show held a pre-West End tour starting in October 2013 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford[18] with further dates in Malvern, Nottingham and Cambridge[19] before beginning previews at the Vaudeville Theatre, London[20] on 27 November 2013,[16] with an official opening night on 10 December,[21] booking until 29 March 2014.[1] The shows lead roles are played by Ben Miller,[22] Nancy Carroll, Diana Vickers,[23] Debbie Chazen, James Musgrave and Simon Shepherd.[24] Whilst speaking about the show Miller said 'They say that comedy equals tragedy plus time, and traumatic as the expense scandal was hopefully we can all now have a bloody good laugh about it. And if any MPs don't like it they can always claim for it on expenses.'[25] Only one politician attended the shows opening night, former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson.[26] A typical performance runs two hours and 15 minutes, including one interval of 15 mins.[27]

Principal roles and original cast[edit]

Character Original pre and West End performer[28][29]
Robert Houston Ben Miller
Felicity Houston Nancy Carroll
Sir Norman Cavendish Simon Shepherd
Holly Diana Vickers
Ludmilla Debbie Chazen
Seb James Musgrave
Voice of Radio DJ Graham Norton
Voice of Harriet Harman Jessica Martin
Voice of Charlotte Green Charlotte Green
Voice of Gavin Esler Gavin Esler

Critical reception[edit]

The production received mixed to positive reviews. Charles Spencer in The Telegraph wrote that the show featured some "sublime comic moments" and that "Subtle it certainly ain’t, but at its ribald best The Duck House proves genuinely hilarious."[30] The Metro described actor Ben Miller as an "unimpeachable, amazingly assured comic presence throughout" and described the direction of Terry Johnson as delivered with "verve and precision".[31]

Some were more critical. Dominic Maxwell in The Times noted the show was by first time playwrights and the play started "fast and it’s really funny", but felt the shows plot structure didn't ultimately have enough support to it. He concluded however that "plenty of the crowd kept laughing till the end."[32] Ian Shuttleworth of The Financial Times felt that although the play was "topical" it took "passing shots at pretty much every other political “outrage” of recent years" and as such was "lazier even than a dedicated couch potato." He did however praise what he called a "fine production", praising Johnson's attention to the "broad farce and the sardonic one-liners" and praising Miller as an "effective linchpin."[33]

Awards and nominations[edit]

London production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2014 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Comedy Nominated[34] [35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Ben Miller on starring in new play The Duck House". standard.co.uk. London Evening Standard. 16 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "West End's Stephen Ward, From Here to Eternity, The Full Monty and The Duck House End Runs March 29". playbill.com. Playbill. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "The Duck House: MPs' expenses satire heads for West End". bbc.co.uk/news. BBC News. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Duck House". officiallondontheatre.co.uk. Official London Theatre. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "The Duck House". thestage.co.uk. The Stage. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "MPs duck out of The Duck House". bbc.co.uk/news. BBC News. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Duck House review". theguardian.com. The Guardian. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ben Miller stars in this new satire about the MPs' expenses scandal, which runs at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre". whatsonstage.com. Whats On Stage. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "In a flap over expenses, Ben Miller plays an MP in this satire directed by Terry Johnson". theartsdesk.com. The Arts Desk. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Ben Miller: at home in The Duck House". thetimes.co.uk. The Times. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Culture Stage West End The Duck House: MPs' expenses satire set for West End splash". The Guardian. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "Ben Miller to turn MPs expenses scandal into West End stage show The Duck House". The Independent. The Independent. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "The duo behind The Duck House: We want people to laugh their guts out". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "MPs' expenses scandal becomes West End comedy". The Daily Telegraph. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "MPs' expenses: Sir Peter Viggers in duck house mystery". The Daily Telegraph. 22 May 2009. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Ben Miller and Diana Vickers star in Duck House in the West End". Whats on Stage. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "Ben Miller to Lead West End Premiere of Parliamentary Comedy The Duck House". Broadway.Com. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "Ben Miller stars in tour of political satire The Duck House 'prior to West End'". Whats on Stage. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Duck House, a new comedy starring Ben Miller and Nancy Carroll to open at The Vaudeville Theatre on 10 December, 2013". The Arts Shelf. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  20. ^ "Miller to star in West End farce on expenses scandal". Yorkshire Post. yorkshirepost.co.uk. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  21. ^ "Ben Miller to star in expenses scandal play". The Stage. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "Ben Miller to star in The Duck House". ITV. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  23. ^ "Diana Vickers returns to the stage in new political comedy The Duck House with Ben Miller". dailymail.co.uk. Daily Mail. 5 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "MILLER SPENDS CHRISTMAS IN THE DUCK HOUSE". Official London Theatre. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  25. ^ "New play about MPs' expenses". Chortle. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  26. ^ "Politicians duck first night of play about MPs' claims scandal". standard.co.uk. London Evening Standard. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  27. ^ "The Duck House". timeout.com. Time Out. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  28. ^ "Political Comedy The Duck House Will Play London's Vaudeville; Cast Announced". Playbill. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  29. ^ "The Duck House". Vaudeville Theatre Theatre programme: 26. March 2014. 
  30. ^ "The Duck House turns the MPs expenses scandal into a ribald farce". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  31. ^ "Terry Johnson's The Duck House often feels like a formulaic farce". metro.co.uk. Metro (British newspaper). 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  32. ^ "The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre, W2". thetimes.co.uk. The Times. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Duck House, Vaudeville Theatre, London review". ft.com. Financial Times. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  34. ^ "Olivier Awards: how a tiny theatre in north London trounced the West End". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. 13 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  35. ^ "Olivier awards 2014: musicals lead nominations". theguardian.com. The Guardian. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 

External links[edit]