Theatre review: Coalition, Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), Edinburgh

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PRIMED for a West End transfer or spin-off TV series, this slick and funny part-satire, part-farce on the Coalition government – starring Thom Tuck, Phill Jupitus and Jo Caulfield – has the kind of polish that almost feels out of place at the Fringe.


Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)

Star rating: * * * *

Despite inevitable comparisons to The Thick of It and Yes Minster, Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky do an impressive job of stamping their own perspective on a genre currently undergoing a renaissance. They bypass a literal retelling of the Cameron and Clegg marriage from hell in favour of a fictional coalition government, but one that still has a lot to say about our current political situation.

Tuck’s power hungry Lib Dem leader, Matt Cooper, is like Nick Clegg on too much orangeade – a bumbling buffoon with a talent for spin used mostly to persuade himself that he’s a left-wing visionary as he sells out to the right. In the blue corner is Jupitus’s Francis Whitford, who stalks the corridors of Westminster like a big camp Tory spider, and Simon Evans as Prime Minister Richard Macintosh. Meanwhile, Caulfield’s Angela Hornby, the Lib Dems’ chief whip, can barely disguise her delight as Matt’s Basil Fawlty-esque string of cock-ups cause his demise.

This coalition is doomed to fall apart almost as soon as it’s set up – infighting, misplaced ambition and a system run by idiotic men ignoring the advice of infinitely more capable but lesser promoted women cause it to spectacularly implode. Jessica Regan’s Claudia Hood, Matt’s special adviser, feels like she should be doing his job – particularly gallsome when he gets a new “protégé” – delightfully played by Phil Mulryne – who’s even more stupid than he is.

This stark depiction of sexual inequality in politics gives the familiar web of political intrigue something fresh; a subversive twist that steers it away from a celebration of macho posturing. The ending feels spanned out, adding further plot twists without telling us anything new. Some final words from Claudia to Matt, spoken as if to Nick Clegg, sum things up best: “We used to love you. Now we hate you.”

• Until 26 August. Today 2pm.