This House by James Graham is currently on tour after a top-rated run at the National theatre and runs at Norwich Theatre Royal from the 8th to 12th May. So, I took the opportunity to speak to Natalie Grady (Endeavour, Hollyoaks), who plays one of the leads, about her involvement in the play and what it means to her.
This House centres on the (mostly accurate) political events from the 1974 election right up to the Thatcher ministry, a time period which Grady has come to regard as ‘one of Britain’s most intense political periods.’ The entirety of the play takes place in the whips’ offices, with Grady playing Ann Taylor, a Labour MP who eventually became the first female chief whip, as well as the first female leader of the House of Commons and first female Lord president of the privy Council.
Grady was very keen to discuss the play itself, which she described as ‘culturally appropriate’ for the times we live in as it works to make ‘Westminster accessible’. In her words, ‘it humanises a world we may feel in the dark about’.
But for all this, the politics aren’t the only selling point of this particular play. Grady has assured me that it is ‘not just a political play’ and is actually ‘very, very funny’. There is a live band onstage throughout the performance (which also features music from the likes of David Bowie) and, perhaps controversially, audience members are invited to sit on the benches onstage and get directly involved in the action. It is ‘a nice little touch’, she remarks.
Although there are only 3 female roles in the play in order to retain historical accuracy, Grady feels that ‘the women who are portrayed are incredible women’, genuinely fighting for new policies and changes. She feels that it fits very well within the current political climate, which she has dubbed ‘the year of the woman’ – and I couldn’t agree more.
When asked about the role itself, Grady had no shortage of words about both her character and the woman it was based on – ‘I love it… She’s incredible… Kind of a pioneer’ – and made a particular effort to commend Taylor for ‘holding her own in a man’s world’. Despite being no stranger to strong female roles, having recently played a female Mark Anthony, Grady was surprised at some aspects of the role, stating that she, ‘as an actress, found it weird that there was no romance’.
When I asked about the possibility of playing similar roles in future, she became very enthusiastic and expressed the desire that ‘hopefully, more talented writers write like this!’ She also commented on how much she ‘loves touring’ and very much enjoyed the different responses that come from different parts of the country, as so many constituencies are discussed.
If you’re as excited as I am about this hilarious-sounding politically charged piece of drama, I’d suggest heading over to the theatre website before all tickets sell out!