Theatre Royal: The Duck House

Before it heads to the West End, political satire The Duck House is at Theatre Royal this week.


One of the many liberties afforded to us as members of a democracy is to ridicule politicians, especially when they give us good reason to.

Such chances are rare…but then the expenses scandal broke.

The Duck House, a political satire four years in the making, sees Ben Miller’s return to the West End Stage as Robert Houston, a Labour backbencher who exacts a swift change of party at the pinnacle of the crisis.

Ben Miller makes a return to the stage in this political sattire

Ben Miller makes a return to the stage in this political satire

The play takes its name from Sir Peter Vigger’s £1,645 floating duck house claimed on taxpayer’s money.

This particular claim did become the icon of the expenses scandal, however the play itself does not limit its diatribe to just the one case. In fact, nobody is safe in The Duck House.

Amidst the roars of laughter from the stalls, some of the more ludicrous claims are recounted: John Reid’s ‘black glitter toilet seat’ from Homebase, Michael Gove’s beloved elephant lamps, and even Jeremy Hunt’s 12 second phone call that he claimed 1p for.

Miller is as unforgivably funny in his dogged dedication to the bureaucratic makeup of a squirming politician. Amidst the giddy slapstick interchanges between Houston and his Russian maid Ludmilla (Debbie Chazen) he desperately tries to avert suspicion from one of David Cameron’s ‘enforcers’, Sir Norman Cavendish (Simon Shepherd).

Simon Shepherd and Ben Miller

Simon Shepherd (Sir Norman Cavendish) is one of David Cameron’s ‘enforcers’

With no time for respite, dynamism is the order of the day in ‘The Duck House’; the minimal, naturalistic set of Houston’s living room constantly changes with hanging baskets, massage chairs, and horse manure being carried in and out.

The Duck House never loses tempo or forgets its audience and is never unsurprising in what the hapless Houston will do next. Miller’s inability at certain points to remain in character is a testament to such strong farcical writing and also the disbelief that, above all else, most of the events are true in some form or another.

The Duck House is definitely worth bagging a ticket whilst it remains in town if you can afford it; otherwise just claim it on expenses.

The Duck House is here until Saturday, student tickets start at £16- book here.