Natalie Grady talks politics and power in This House at the Lowry Theatre

Ewan Quayle | 27th April 2018

This House at the Lowry.

Starring in a frantic and funny performance, This House, actress Natalie Grady talks to VIVA about what to expect and women in politics during the most hectic periods in Britain’s political history.

To some, a play about 1970s British politics is almost certainly a bore, but This House brings fresh and engaging take on the underhand tactics used by our politicians decades ago.

The scene is set between the 1974 General Election and the 1979 vote of no confidence in then Prime Minister James Callaghan.

This House at the Lowry.

The frantic yet funny production takes place in the whips offices of both Labour and the Conservatives. Natalie Grady makes her mark as the harsh but fair Ann Taylor, Labour’s MP for Bolton West and first ever female whip in the House of Commons.

“Believe it or not, it’s incredibly funny, a hilarious piece of writing.¬†Two power-hungry gangs of people desperately try to strike deals with everyone in order to get power.”

Grady is keen to point out that the play has attracted people from all walks of life, not necessarily interested in the world of politics.

“Sometimes, certainly myself, we look at that world and it seems so shut off from the rest of us, something that we can’t get involved in.

“Then you watch this play and realise that no, they’re just human beings. It humanises the whole world.”

In This House, Ann Taylor keeps her Labour colleagues in line with unconventional methods, most famously a screwdriver.

“In her first day as whip, she was given a screwdriver to ‘flush out’ MPs who hid in the toilets during a vote. When a vote is called, you’ve got eight minutes to get everyone into the lobby.

“She’d have to go into the toilets, and if she saw any feet that might belong to a Labour MP she would take the screwdriver and twist the ‘engaged’ sign to ‘vacant’ and tell them to get out and vote.”

The play has promised to be packed full of quirky stories that often leave people wondering about what goes on behind closed doors, even now.

“All these little true stories that happened, you put them on the stage and go ‘Really?! Did that really happen?’

“MPs fought tooth and nail for what they wanted, and sometimes in quite underhand ways.”

Grady spent much time studying Ann Taylor’s character and feels a sort of connection with her, both being from Lancashire and growing up in a similar way.

“She’s a Lancashire lass, so am I! This is a woman who grew up in a working class town, went to Bolton School, and immediately I can say that I get who this woman is.

“And not only have I got this feeling of a woman who comes from a world I understand, she also went on to do brilliant things.”

 

MPs, including the now Baroness Taylor of Bolton, have been involved with the production from the start.

“James Graham (writer) was initially quite scared of writing the play. The House of Commons is a very closed shop, nobody will really talk to you about it.

“But actually, Ann Taylor was one of the people that was very open with James, and gave him a lot of information and support right from the start.”

The production has sold out at venues across the UK. This House is showing at the Lowry Theatre until Saturday 28 April. For more details and tickets click here.

Photos below by Johan Persson.

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