Life and soul of a party

En­joys timely romp through 30 years of the Labour Party’s ups and downs a

The Sunday Telegraph - - Arts -

Bri­tish pol­i­tics may be fac­ing a win­ter of mul­ti­far­i­ous dis­con­tents, but James Gra­ham is en­joy­ing a glo­ri­ous sum­mer of play writ­ing renown and suc­cess. As of this week, the 35-year-old is the toast of the­atre­land. Labour of Love, his anatomy of the Labour Party (tak­ing in some 30 years of his­tory in 150 min­utes), has opened a hop, skip and a jump up St Martin’s Lane from Ink, his su­perb, Almei­dapremiered hit about the early days of Mur­doch and The Sun.

In terms of com­mer­cial clout, he’s tech­ni­cally eclipsed by Jack Thorne, sit­ting pretty with Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child. But fol­low­ing his Na­tional The­atre and then West End break­through with This House, Gra­ham’s po­si­tion is now unas­sail­able as the go-to-guy for bank­able dra­mas about our body politic.

When he first emerged lit­tle more than 10 years ago, on the Lon­don fringe, dur­ing the rel­a­tively sta­ble­seem­ing days of New Labour, he looked to be carv­ing out a valu­able, if un­fash­ion­able, niche, ex­am­in­ing the back sto­ries of 20th cen­tury PMs: Eden, Heath, Thatcher. That in­stinct for an in­tel­lec­tual gap in the mar­ket has paid rich div­i­dends as our need to un­der­stand the run-up to and fall­out from Thatcherism has in­creased post-crash. He started off look­ing like the­atre’s an­swer to the so­cial his­to­rian Do­minic Sand­brook, and has wound up al­most seiz­ing the man­tle of Sir David Hare.

Hare, who gave us a defin­ing por­trait of Labour un­der Kin­nock in The Ab­sence of War (1993), was quoted re­cently as sug­gest­ing that Labour of Love runs the risk of look­ing too “re­ac­tive”: “That’s what I call ‘chas­ing the dust cart’.” And in broad terms, the flaw of the piece is in­deed that even as it ex­am­ines the rise and fall of the cen­trist project in Labour, it can­not hope to an­swer fully the ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips at the mo­ment: namely how the hard Left resur­gence – un­der Cor­byn – has seem­ingly made it­self electable.

By Gra­ham’s own ad­mis­sion he had a lot of rewrit­ing to do as the June 8 elec­tion re­sults came in, given the as­sump­tions about Jez’s chances. What’s strik­ing all the same, given the con­fused state of play, is how co­her­ent his re­sponse is. With deft­ness, wit and a stir­ring amount of ro­man­tic love, the evening gets to the heart of the ide­o­log­i­cal rifts and tiffs that have be­set Labour since its red rose clutch­ing fight-back against the Thatcher supremacy.

It’s back to the seis­mic res­ig­na­tion of Mrs T in 1990 that the first half rewinds, be­gin­ning on elec­tion night 2017 and mov­ing past the coali­tion years, the 2001 elec­tion and the 1994 Labour lead­er­ship cam­paign. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing be­tween-scenes footage in Jeremy Her­rin’s smartly paced pro­duc­tion sup­plies sur­pris­ingly nos­tal­gia-in­duc­ing con­text of Te­flon Tony et al in their prime.

Po­lit­i­cal skir­mishes of the past and present are re­vis­ited through one lo­ca­tion and an in­ter­twin­ing per­sonal thread. We’re in the North Not­ting­hamshire con­stituency of­fice of Labour MP David Lyons – ev­i­dently Labour of Love

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.