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The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre, London

From the moment Ben Miller strides onto the stage of the Vaudeville and delivers a concise and funny introduction to proceedings, I got the uncanny feeling that I was going to like this play. A lot.

Written by Dan Patterson (Mock the Week) and Colin Swash (Have I Got News For You and Private Eye), this is a comedy (read farce) of the highest order. Set in May 2009, that wonderful time when our beloved MP's were exposed as the expenses villains we now know them as, this is near the knuckle stuff. The early part takes great joy in creating comedy from what we now know, lampooning many that were later to be in government in a very knowing and very funny way.

The lead roll of MP on the turn Robert Houston is played with delicious exuberance by Ben Miller, when needed, channeling the supreme reaches of an out of control Basil Fawlty, while still being able to deliver those so subtle jokes so well. He just seems not only perfect for the role, but totally enjoying it. Making it all the better for us.

Having seen Miller on television a great deal, none of this is really a surprise. Simon Shepherd though for me was a standout surprise. Very much more familiar for serious roles, his part in this as Sir Norman Cavendish is a revelation. Giving his all, especially in his hysterical second act performance, he really was the surprise of the play.

The rest of the cast were unfamiliar to me (yes even Diana Vickers, what is The X-Factor?!?) but without a shadow of a doubt all are superb. Off the four Debbie Chazen is the best (Add Russian accent "Hello"); sadly very much underused in the second act, as Russian housekeeper Ludmilla. Pretty much stealing every scene she appears in, she is a delight.

That is not to detract from the remaining three performers, with Nancy Carroll superb as the technophobe wife Felicity Hoffman, and James Musgrave pulling off several costumes with style and verve, yes even that *spoilers* suit as son Seb. Diana Vickers has less to do as Seb's girlfriend Holly, only appearing in the second act, but having a "hard hitting" role and the best costume of the show, even more than that *spoiler* suit. Although I may be biased in that.

The set is perfect also, with the first act being very much a farce set, standard living room laden with goods (not sure who paid for them), while the second act set is bang on and neatly presented at the start by a startled Miller.

There is no question that if it is humanly possible for you to get to see this play then you should. Some of the funniest moments you are likely to see this year (or next), be it TV, film or theatre. Featuring the best acupuncture joke I have ever heard, the best use of a *spoiler* suit ever, impressive use of dairy product in a running gag and a cast performance from the gods. Please stop reading this and go and buy a ticket will you, but I am afraid that you are paying...

The Duck House is on at the Vaudeville Theatre, London until March 29th 2014.
www.vaudeville-theatre.co.uk/The-Duck-House.html


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