Yes, Minister. The Thick of It. Veep. It’s hard to remember when comedy and politics first jumped into bed together, but the unholy marriage has produced some of the most cutting, acerbic satire of recent years.
Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky’s new play is no exception. Set in 2014, Coalition takes you to the top of a Lib Dem-Tory alliance in Westminster (the clue is in the name). Matt Cooper, played by comedian Thom Tuck, is the likeable but ultimately supine leader of the Lib Dems. Facing mounting disquiet from within his own party and outwith following a series of climbdowns (sound familiar?), Cooper does a deal with Conservative Prime Minister Richard Macintosh (Simon Evans): in exchange for permission to publically criticise a crackdown on local government spending, the Liberal leader agrees to the building of 48 nuclear reactors.
Cue much political chaos and, eventually, the meltdown of Cooper’s career. "What do you do when you’re in a hole?" Cooper rhetorically asks his much put upon Special Advisor, Claudia (Jessica Regan). "Bring in the industrial diggers and level the entire area." In Cooper’s case that means revealing the duplicity and vacuity at the heart of modern politics. The writing is suitably mordant—Phil Jupitius, as the wonderfully camp, Mephistophelian Minister Without Portfolio Francis Whitford, gets most of the best lines—and if the drama sags occasionally over the 90 minutes there are more than enough laughs, and political intrigue, to keep the audience engaged throughout.