Labour of Love by James Graham

October 26, 2017. Noel Coward Theatre

Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig

This is out-bloody-standing. The acting. The writing. The direction. The set design. It’s all brilliant-brilliant-brilliant.

James Graham has done it again. (In fact as you walk up from Trafalgar Sq you realise he’s taken over Saint Martin’s Lane). Ink at the Duke of York and this, Labour of Love at the Noël Coward. Bravo Sir.

This is the story of the last 30 years of the Labour Party told as the personal story of David and Jean. He’s the MP that gets voted into a safe northern seat (you could put up a sausage sandwich as the Labour candidate and they’d vote for it. Where I come from we used to say a potted plant…) on a wave of Kinnock rebranding against Jean who becomes his agent after her hard Labour husband is voted out. She is the backbone of the party, joined at 12 cos they don’t check your age. She’s Labour to her core and never let go of the red flag for the red rose.

This is new Labour vs old. This is Labour”s internal fighting and debating and winning and losing and evolving. This is James Graham’s plea to the party to heal and join forces.

Freeman and Greig are absolutely superb. They spar and spat with relish yet we see through their 27 year partnership real affection, warmth and humanity. I felt a real connection to the two of them by the end.

I had one moment where I wondered what Sarah Lancashire would’ve been like. She’d have been terrific but Greig is phenomenal and mixes warmth and the righteous indignation of those who believe they are always right brilliantly. Having seen her Malvolia this year – this cements my fandom.

Freeman looks much more at home here than he did as Richard III. He’s brilliant as the Blairite candidate who wants to be in power so he can make a difference to be eventually worn down by 27 years of politics and defeat.

The ensemble are well played but some of the characters are a little simply drawn. I thought David’s wife Liz too caricatured although the resemblance to Cheri Blair amused greatly.

The ending is hopeful and a call for the Labour Party to not fracture but work together. This is as good if not better writing than This House. I absolutely loved it. And what I’d like to call for is Graham to work on something related to Brexit.

5/5 Stunning production. Think this is the best I’ve seen all year. Olivier for Mr Graham please.