Preview: James Graham's This House

credit: Johan Persson

Political dramatisation of the first General Election in 1974 comes to Edinburgh

In the field of political re-enactments which shine a light upon the machinations of the great political pressure points of recent British history, 32-year-old James Graham has taken over from David Hare as the playwright of our times. His work was first staged 12 years ago, and since then, his plays have illuminated characters and events which have directed the life of the country. His subjects have included 1970s anarchist terrorists (The Angry Brigade, 2014), the birth of The Sun newspaper (Ink, 2017), and the Labour party's divisions represented as a romantic comedy (Labour of Love, 2017).

He plans, apparently, to write 'a Shakespearean epic about the Scottish independence referendum', but until that arrives his highest-profile and most acclaimed work up to this point remains This House, which was first seen at the National's Dorfman Theatre in 2012. It tells of the aftermath of the first General Election of 1974, which had Labour governing on the tiniest of minorities, yet it focuses not on big-hitting politicians like Ted Heath and Harold Wilson, but the backroom machinations of the whips who sought to keep their government running.

In his introduction to the play, Graham professes his fascination with research, and discovering the reality of what Alan Bennett called the time when history 'rattles over the points'. This House is a dramatisation of reality, but, says Graham, 'my only fear is that adding the necessary warning – "this is a dramatisation inspired by real events" – might lead an audience to think I had changed more than I have.'

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 27–Sat 31 Mar

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This House

Jeremy Herrin directs a revival of James Graham's acutely observed political drama.