What do you get if you cram a hotel room with an MEP, a sexy Russian secretary, a spying official, a corrupt Turk, a sex-crazed French woman, a racist Yorkshireman and – of course – an archbishop? The set-up for political sex farce In The Club at Hampstead. Jo Fletcher-Cross was in the first night audience to watch the bedroom-swapping action.
Philip Wardrobe (James Fleet) is the MEP for Northamptonshire, a position he enjoys immensely, particularly as few of his constituents really know who he is. His wife, Nicola (Carla Mendonça) is flying in from Kettering that afternoon so they can make a baby. But before that, a busy morning fiddling expense accounts, faking letter bombs and accepting bribes from a Turkish envoy lies ahead.
With the help of his gorgeous and exceptionally capable Russian illegal immigrant PA Sasha (Sian Brooke), he negotiates his way through a series of potentially difficult situations, compounded by the arrival of his friend Eddie (Richard Moore), the genial but racist and homophobic UK Independence Party MEP for West Riding, who is sleeping in Philip’s hotel room to save on expenses. The introduction of the randy Beatrice Renard, (Anna Francolini) who is in love with Philip, and a fraud investigator who sits in the cupboard for the entire play gathering evidence against all of them, causes confusion and embarrassment, and some terrible misunderstandings.
A beautiful and convincing cream and brown luxury Strasbourg hotel room, designed by Jonathon Fensom, is the setting for the farcical capers, with the requisite over-abundance of doors to run in and out of; a bedroom on either side, a linen cupboard and a double door leading to the corridor, together with lots of chairs, numerous props including furry handcuffs and a fluorescent pink sex toy (sent by a constituent who wants to complain to the European Court Of Human Rights about the motor, which doesn’t have the required torque to “drive the action of the head”), a glass of iced water in which Philip is constantly dipping a certain part of his anatomy (to help in his quest to make a baby) and a suitcase full of Euros. The potential for chaos is enormous.
Director David Grindley certainly keeps everyone running around, and the cast work hard to keep all their balls, literally and figuratively, in the air. If you believe the European Parliament is a hotbed of scandal, corruption and intrigue, you won’t find any arguments here.
In The Club is at Hampstead until 25 August.