Review: Hansard, National Theatre - exceptionally witty, acidic and punchy drama
Simon Woods' debut play Hansard, a political drama, is set in 1988 but feels like it was written for now. Certainly watching it on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he was going to prorogue Parliament added an extra frisson of meaning to some of the lines.
Set in the Cotswolds home of Tory MP Robin Hesketh (Alex Jennings) he is reunited with his wife Diana (Lindsay Duncan) having returned from working in London for the week.
Thatcherism is in full swing, the UK economy is riding high on an economic boom and the Poll Tax is on its way but all is not right in the Hesketh house and it's not just the foxes digging up the garden or Diana's hangover.
A two-hander it starts off as the sort of bickering long term couples almost enjoy, the familiar digs and quips but the comments become increasingly barbed and weighted.
Diana isn't the traditional Tory wife, she doesn't like the Tories for a start and isn't shy about it but Robin doesn't hold back in his opinion of her more liberal, left-leaning views either.
Waves of laughter
Given the current political turmoil many lines garnered extra weight provoking waves of laughter (did I detect a note of bitterness/scorn to some of it?).
Woods doesn't settle with giving either left or right-wing politics an easy victory, instead, the witty and acidic debate between the couple serves to highlight the flaws of both sides.
It is perhaps a conscious reminder of how entrenched and polarised contemporary opinions have become to the point where meaningful and intelligent discussion is often shut down.
Powerful human drama
However, Hansard isn't just a play about divisive politics and its social impact, it's also a powerful human drama exposing the hypocrisy of our own emotions in betraying our true beliefs.
To say more would spoil the impact if you are going to see it but needless to say, it's been a long time since I felt that flawed by a play.
Woods has proved himself to be a dialogue writer of exceptional talent and it is a joy to see Jennings and Duncan embark on 90 minutes of breathtaking verbal tennis.
Emotional weight and punch
You couldn't ask for more from a play or performances, it carried more weight and emotional punch than many of plays almost twice the running time I've seen in recent weeks.
Hansard is quite simply the best thing I've seen for a while.
See it at the National Theatre until 25 November - if you can get a ticket.
It is 90 minutes without an interval and I'm giving it a big fat ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
You might also like to read:
A Very Expensive Poison, Old Vic - another brand new play but this one left me feeling conflicted and not in a good way.
The Doctor, Almeida - Robert Icke bows out as associate director but does he go out on a high?
From the archive: Martin Freeman joins my tea and cake list after his performance at the Clybourne Par, post-show Q&A