Theatre: The Duck House  

The Duck House, Vaudeville Theatre

Image: Tristram Kenton

The MPs’ expenses scandal was one of the most astonishing stories to come out of Parliament and kept the country in a state of utter shock as ever more astonishing revelations poured from the news desks.

It was the utter pettiness of the claims that grated – a 1p phone call, for example – but soon we were to discover the practice of ‘flipping’; then the sheer greed of hanging baskets, food, and a glittery toilet seat. But the story reached a climax when it was revealed that the Tory MP Sir Peter Viggers had claimed for a duck house at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,645.

The whole episode felt like a farce. It wasn’t. But now we have one in The Duck House. A wonderful, A-class one by Dan Patterson and Colin Swash. Director Terry Johnson ensures the first act gets going at a startling pace (as fast as an MP might submit a claim, one might say) with Ben Miller as champagne socialist Robert Houston, planning to defect to the Tories.  The scene opens on his gracious drawing room, complete with massage chair (Shahid Malik) and elephant lamps (step forward Michael Gove). It’s the night the expenses story breaks. Houston is expecting to discuss the announcement of his news with Tory top brass Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd) and desperately tries to cover up his expenses booty. This is classic farce with sex, lies, doors opening, doors closing, quick fire jokes and double standards.  The audience loved it; lapping up the ‘plebgate’ jokes, the Nigella jibe and particularly one about Chris Huhne ‘drives like a maniac, Lovely wife, though. Inseparable.’

While Miller is hilarious, he is supported admirably by Nancy Carroll as Mrs Houston (the scene with the computer is hilarious), Shepherd (will he ever get over wearing that nappy arrangement?) and Debbie Chazen as the right-wing Russian housekeeper.

James Musgrave as Seb works some magic in a panda suit while Diana Vickers will surely shake off her reality starlet mantle with her commanding Madam performance. I bet you want to see it now! Strictly for teachers and sixth formers (just!).

The Duck House runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until March.