Whipping up political dirty tricks in Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 11:39 13 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:48 14 January 2020
A vitriolic comedy of political dirty tricks opens in Welwyn Garden City this week.
When Steve Thompson's Whipping It Up premiered at the Bush Theatre in 2006, the country's political life was occasionally entertaining, if predictable.
By 2018 when Clive Weatherley, the Barn Theatre's artistic director, chose this pungent political satire for the current season things had shifted somewhat.
Keith Thompson, the play's director, and father of Steve, said: "You may be relieved to know this play was written well before the referendum.
"Brexit is never mentioned, so you can enjoy political humour at its best, with razor sharp dialogue and personality clashes."
He added: "All the dirty tricks revealed are based on fact, only one is invented."
It's the week before Christmas, New Labour has lost a general election and David Cameron's Conservatives are back in power, with a majority of three.
There's rebellion in the air and a leadership challenge is being cooked up in the bars and dining rooms.
With Cameron delayed on a visit to the US - the President's golf cart ran over his toe - and a crucial vote in the offing, it's up to the whips office to bully and bribe the Tory MPs into turning up and voting with the Government.
To complicate matters an Observer journalist is threatening to blow the gaff on the whips' dirty tricks.
Reviewing it when it moved to the Ambassadors in 2007, The Sunday Times critic wrote: "It's a vitriolic political comedy that makes the average alligator pond look like a health spa."
Veteran Barn actor Godfrey Marriott takes on the role of Chief Whip, and Natalie Gordon plays Labour's Deputy Chief Whip.
Divyesh Thakerar and Peter Bryans, both seen in the recent production of The Crucible, Steve Deaville, in his fourth Barn role in the last year, and Esther Bishop - Bobbie in the Christmas production of The Railway Children - complete the cast.
Steve Thompson is an award-winning screen and playwright whose work includes Sherlock, Doctor Who and the recent TV series Vienna Blood.
One of a particularly talented Barn Youth cohort, he was Writer in Residence at the Bush Theatre in 2006 where Whipping It Up, his second play, premiered to critical acclaim.
Damages, his first play, also staged at The Bush, won the Meyer-Whitworth Award for new writing and No Naughty Bits, a later one, have both been performed at the Barn.
These days, when Steve returns to the Barn, it's usually to direct.
In 2017, it was an all-female production of The Taming of The Shrew, and a year later a sell-out production of tHe dYsFUnCKshOnalZ!
Next month he will be bringing Amelia Bullmore's Mammals to the Barn Studio.
Whipping It Up runs from Friday, January 17 to Saturday, January 25, with a matinee on the last day of its run at 2.30pm and evening performances at 8pm.
Tickets cost £13 from the Barn box office on 01707 324300 or online at www.barntheatre.co.uk