Labour of Love by James Graham

I know political writers out there will think my plays are toothless, that what we need desperately is to be loud and aggressive and hold people to account. And people should write those plays, they are just never going to be my plays. I’m more interested in trying to understand people I don’t necessarily agree with, try to understand their motivations and why they feel what they do.

James Graham, talking about his play Ink to the Guardian newspaper.

James Graham has become a playwright to watch over the last few years, with hits such as This House, television drama Coalition, and Ink looking at British politics and the media respectively. His latest play is Labour of Love, about the Labour Party's evolution over the last 25 years.  

The play stars Martin Freeman (The Office, Sherlock) and Tamsin Greig (Episodes, Twelfth Night at The National Theatre) as a Labour MP and constituency agent, and focuses on the clashes between the two over the direction of the party. Freeman plays the modernist MP concerned more with his career then the community he represents, who returns to his traditional nothern constituency once a week where his agent (Greig) takes him to task over his obligations to the people who elected him. The action starts off in the Kinnock era and moves through the Blair years to modern-day Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

As in all his recent plays, This House and Ink, for example, the playwright tells a ripping yarn about key events in Britain's recent history and the decisions made in the name of politics or business, but he also asks the question: at what cost? In his last two plays, about the struggles of the minority Labour government of the 1970s and the rise of tabloid media culture, the audience had the benefit of hindsight, but his new play ends in the Corbyn era, and the party still at odds with itself, so, what next?

Originally written before the 2015 general election, Graham has admitted reworking the play to reflect the Labour Party's unexpected resurgence under Corbyn's leadership, and planned to tweak the script right up to the opening night, so the production is as current as possible.

Jeremy Herrin, who directed This House at the National Theatre and in the West End, is in the director's chair again and the play is a co-production between the Michael Grandage Company (The Cripple of Irishmen, Photograph 51, Peter and Alice) and Headlong (Peoples, Places & Things, Chimerica).

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James Graham also has a play running almost next door along St Martin's Lane, Ink, about the rise of The Sun newspaper starring Bertie Carvel (Doctor Foster, Matilda the Musical) as a young Rupert Murdoch; and another new play, Quiz, about a famous incident of cheating on the television game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? running in Chichester, East Sussex.

Ink at the Duke of York's Theatre, WC2
19 September - 6 January
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Quiz at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, PO19
3 November - 9 December
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Now - 2 December


Noël Coward Theatre
St Martin's Lane
Covent Garden
London WC2N 4AU