A Westminster Story

Earlier this month we published a post by Sal Fulcher about her play “A Westminster Story”. I was intrigued by this so booked a ticket and went to see it yesterday evening.

The venue was new to me. The Waterloo East Theatre is a delightful 100-seat studio theatre located under one of the arches beneath Waterloo East station. Occasional low rumbles from the trains overhead only added to the atmosphere – especially for this play set in contemporary London – and didn’t overwhelm the actors’ voices at all.

Sal is a scriptwriter and psychotherapist who has written for Hollyoaks and for other films and TV series. This is her first full-length theatre production.

I thoroughly enjoyed the play, which opens as the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are hammering out a coalition deal. This is not 2010 again, but there are echoes, of course, of what happened then.

Chris and Hellen Birch are the power couple, both MPs and both hoping for a major role in the new Government. Chris is offered Deputy Prime Minister but at the cost of one of his red lines (a proxy for tuition fees) – no cuts to Foreign Aid. If he allows aid to be cut, then he can deliver on his two top policies around mental health and climate change. His wife is the more pragmatic player and encourages him to take power because he can do useful things with it.

Allanah and Tommy McCusker are siblings who have moved down to London from Scotland. Both are dealing in their own ways with trauma following family incidents that culminated about a year ago.

A chance meeting between Allanah and Chris (who also has his own demons) develops into a tentative relationship, during which the impact of political decisions on the personal lives of all four characters is played out.

I particularly liked the two mental health strategies that Chris promoted – mental health GPs and an EQ (emotional intelligence) curriculum for schools – both of which are critical to one of the plot points.

The drama is introduced and punctuated by Allanah’s powerful songs, against a background of a London soundscape. The set design and lighting are perfect for this tiny stage.

The play runs until Sunday and I would warmly encourage any readers who live in the London area to get along to see it.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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