About Time You Saw: HansardBy Gilly Hopper
In the first instance, Hansard is a percipient work. Actor-turned-writer Simon Woods’ first play is a composition of recent history that feels bewilderingly current. Set in the Cotswolds on Saturday 28 May 1988, this two-hander is played out by Alex Jennings as Robin Hesketh, a Tory politician, and Lindsay Duncan as his wife Diana Hesketh, a left-leaning feminist. It’s not the happiest of marriages – politically or otherwise.
Robin is of the opinion that people need a story, something to latch on to in order to form a connection with a concept or ideology – an enemy is often helpful in order to focus things. Diana, congruently, turns to fiction for guidance – a medium that illustrates the impact of our decisions and helps guide and inform future ones. Running at 1 hour 20 minutes, this particular story plays out fast. More personal than parliamentary, rhetoric is applied and retorts flare, with each party debating in a different manner. Diana is emotionally engaged, informed, well read and factual. Robin is more reactive and regaling. In this political pas de deux, both Lindsay and Alex are theatrically effective orators.
Fighting over Robin’s support for the Section 28 clause in the Local Government Act, in which the government of Margaret Thatcher attempted to ban teaching about the acceptability of homosexuality, the play’s centre point is targeted. From this, Woods’ cautions of the irresponsible political class are amplified. Bellows and quips of the entitled and the intelligentsia are paced to rewarding effect thanks to the actors’ intuitiveness and the subtle direction of Simon Godwin.
Attempting to remain as impartial as the BBC, Woods does a good job of weighting our sympathy for both characters and despite the plays abrupt end, Hansard is a compelling watch. Woods is a name to note.
Hansard is now showing at the Lyttelton, National Theatre.