Martin Freeman & Tamsin Greig sizzle in James Graham’s comedy
Don’t be put off by ‘Labour’, James Graham’s comedy Labour Of Love is about ‘Love’. Among other things, it is a love letter to the Labour Party but you don’t need to be a Labour supporter to appreciate this scintillating comedy.
It’s about an MP played by Martin Freeman and his agent played by Tamsin Greig. They represent two sides of Labour- the moderniser and the traditionalist, the centre left and the hard left, the Blairite and the Corbynista. They may disagree but they both love the cause. Like Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing, they argue but they know they need each other.
There’s a chemistry between Tasmin Greig and Martin Freeman that, thanks not only to their comic acting skill but also James Graham’s script, evokes almost continuous laughter.
In fact, for me, their scenes together are as funny as their equivalent in Shakespeare’s comedy about love. They use the same insulting repartee that only true friends can get away with. I loved them.
Sarah Lancashire was originally cast as the agent and I don’t doubt she would have been brilliant but I cannot imagine anybody performing this part better than the wonderful Tamsin Greig. Her comic timing and expressions are perfect.
James Graham’s script is witty, clever & moving
The lead characters are no mere ciphers- you feel their human joy and pain at the fate of their party. When they’re alone together, this play sizzles. There is a noticeable drop in the temperature whenever other more stereotypical characters appear but those scenes still have plenty of humour and hold the interest.
The play, directed by Jeremy Herrin, takes us on a trip through the last 25 years of the Labour Party- its triumphs and its disappointments- as well as showing that the familiar pattern of internal conflict was set from its foundation. The location is always the same- the local party office. We start with the most recent election and in a series of scenes go back to the MP’s first election. In the second act we go forward revisiting the same scenes but learning more about what happened.
Lee Newby’s set, by the way, is also inventive, appearing to be the same with subtle changes for each historical period but in fact alternating two identical sets to give the crew time to change the props.
The concept of perceiving something differently by seeing it backwards is important to the theme and outcome of the play. James Graham has created a script that is not only witty but clever, moving and, dare I say it, educational.