Limehouse (Donmar Warehouse)

The Tories are in power, the nation is in the grip of ruthless austerity and the Labour party is in disarray. Under the stewardship of the red left, there’s division within the party as differences of opinion over the best direction for Labour means talk of a mutinous split seems possible.

No I’m not talking about today – this 1981, and 4 Labour party stalwarts, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, Bill Rogers and David Owen, otherwise known as ‘The Gang of Four’ meet at the Limehouse home of David Owen to discuss the very real possibility of splitting from the Labour party and forming a new centre-left alternative.

It’s a heavyweight quartet, politically, but the casting pulls no punches either… with Roger Allam leading from the front as Jenkins, supported by Paul Chahidi as a slightly scruffy Rogers, Deborah Gillett (Shirley Williams) and Tom Goodman-Hill (David Owen). Gillett and Allam spar nicely and Chahidi buzzes about between everyone as a kind of cowardly bluebottle to great effect.

Those of us used to getting our political theatre packaged up in microwave ready meal style by James Grahame might have to work a little harder with this. It’s slightly harder to digest but with far less salt and MSG it’s better for you, and Polly Findlay’s direction feels confident and considered.

If you’ve any interest in politics, past or present, it’s worth a watch.

4/5

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