Party Tricks

from the programme

Year : 1995

Place : Nottingham Playhouse

Director : Martin Clunes

Playwright : Crispin Whittell

Cast : Danny Webb, Paul Raffield, Nicola Walker, Rob Spendlove, Alexander Armstrong, Elizabeth Garvie, Elizabeth Carling

From the archives of The Stage, we found this review :

Take three popular subjects – drunken, lecherous newspaper editor with venal owners, rival marketing men concerned only for their current brief, and corrupt and self-interested politicians.

Crispin Whittell involves all these elements in the Tory party leadership battle which is the main story of his first full length play, premiered at the Playhouse. It would make brilliant television – it might even make a series.

As a play it is less successful. The explanations are lengthy, with the slender theme only partly disguised by a couple of sub-plots and a series of one-liners and rapid changes of scene.

Some of the moments, especially the opening scene which promises more than the play as a whole finally delivered, are truly hilarious. Martin Clunes, who directs, also had to read a part on the opening night owing to an actor’s indisposition, and managed it seamlessly – man behaving well.

The others involved – Danny Webb, Paul Raffield and Nicola Walker for the papers, Rob Spendlove and Alexander Armstrong for PR (Clunes played the rival), with Elizabeth Garvie as one leadership contender, and Elizabeth Carling as the other’s “research assistant” – got through the wordy bits as best they could and threw themselves with relief into the comedy, which didn’t move often enough into farce.

This is what Graham Greene might have described as “an entertainment”, but it passes an agreeable evening and more importantly gives a start to a new playwright obviously destined to go on to better things.

Six degrees

Crispin Whittell, the playwright, also wrote Killing Her and Killing Him, other plays Nicola has appeared in.