26 May 2016
Playing the fool
The only problem for a young dramatist who has a huge hit early on – such as James Graham’s This House or Nick Payne’s Constellations – is the pressure to repeat the success. By chance, both playwrights are taking this test simultaneously.
Monster Raving Loony, deservedly transferred from the Theatre Royal Plymouth to London, continues the 33-year-old Graham’s exploration of British politics in the period before he was born. After the Lib-Lab pact of 1977 (This House) and the Heath-Thatcher period of Conservatism (Tory Boyz), he now dramatises the life of David Sutch, who, as “Screaming Lord Sutch”, contested and lost 40 seats as leader of the satirical party that gives Graham’s play its title.
Monster Raving Loony daringly takes the form of a succession of short sketches, each in the style of a comedy actor or character: from Max Miller through Monty Python and Morecambe and Wise to Alan Partridge.
This stylistic device is doubly justified. Sutch intended his campaigns as a satirical intervention – consciously Fool to the Lears of political monarchs, he stood against both Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher – but he also, in common with many of the comedians featured (Tony Hancock, Peter Cook, Tommy Cooper) suffered from serious depression, ultimately taking his own life.
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