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Theatre review: Stiffed!

Jessica Geen April 22, 2010
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A concise play at just 75 minutes, Stiffed! is a showcase of the most memorable moments of the expenses scandal, selected with the sharp eye of someone who saw it all unfold close up.

The most high-profile victims of the scandal are all there: Jacqui Smith and her husband’s porn, Anthony Steen and his almost unbelievable “people are just jealous of my massive house” rant.

It’s all the best moments from a tabloid point of view – unsurprising given that it was written by John Higginson, the political editor of the Metro, and Clodagh Hartley, Whitehall editor of the Sun.

Showing at the tiny Tabard theatre in Chiswick, west London, the play puts a minimalist set to stylish and quite cute use. Everything went smoothly, as far as your reviewer could tell, and scene changes were convincing, not distracting.

The play centres around journalist Sally Pauper, charmingly played by Laura Evelyn, who gets the scoop she’s been waiting for when naive new MP Quentin Delaware (Brendan Murphy ) hands her a dodgy dossier of expenses claims.

Matthew Neal plays the rich Tory with the country pile, with Emma Manton as the female chancellor who finds her feminist credentials somewhat damaged when it emerges she claimed for her husband’s porn.

The two actors also play their opposite’s taxpyayer-waged partner, which, despite the competent and engaging acting, caused slight confusion at first.

Some themes felt underdeveloped, such as Quentin Delaware’s admission of being in the closet, and more time could have been given to what it felt like to be a journalist in the eye of the storm.

Also, considering the writers’ insider knowledge, you got the impression that more hints and gossip could have been thrown in.

Although not riotously funny in the vein of The Thick Of It, there were plenty of moments for laughter and the audience responded particularly well to a squeaking puppet portrayal of ex-Speaker Michael Martin.

Definitely one for a politics junkie, although likely to raise a laugh with anyone who’s been keeping up with the ever-unwinding expenses saga.

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