THOSE of a certain age will remember the Winter of Discontent which happened under the minority Callaghan government.

The bins weren’t emptied nor the dead buried and it led to the election of Margaret Thatcher as PM in 1979.

Yet the minority Labour Government clung on for five years after 1974 with no overall majority, at first under Harold Wilson and then, Jim Callaghan.

James Graham’s play, This House, presented by the National Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, centres on the whips’ offices during this turbulent time.

They make a song and dance about securing majority votes — literally — because there is a small band above stage, two solos and some dancing, hence the choreographer.

Every vote counts and the whips ensure that all members from their side are present, even if it means dragging people back from holiday or out of hospital.

There is one particularly funny scene where they all arrive.

If the vote went the wrong way and a vote of no confidence was declared, it could be the end of the Labour Government.

This play, although fictional, captures historic accuracy and the atmosphere in The House at that time.

It is amusing, full of suspense and, at times, even touching.

The Labour Chief whip Bob Mellish, a grumpy old man with a heart of gold, is well portrayed by Martin Marquex, while a smartly suited William Chubb is his Tory opposite number.

Natalie Grady plays the only female whip and "token woman", Ann Taylor.

We don’t see Margaret Thatcher who is the ultimate winner.

My only reservation is that the scene changes are disjointed and that audience members without knowledge of the whipping system might be confused.

This House is at the Lowry until Saturday.

For tickets, telephone 0843 208 6000 or book on line.

Star Rating: * * *