Worthing date - Relishing role of “bumbling blusterer” Prime Minister

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Matthew Cottle is quite clear why he was cast as Prime Minister John Waggner in the new play Party Games! whichplays Worthing’s Connaught Theatre from June 12-15.

“They were looking for a bumbling blusterer and so they said ‘Let's get Cottle!’” Matthew laughs.

The piece is written by Michael McManus, a man who was on the inside of party politics. Michael worked in central office while Margaret Thatcher and John Major were prime ministers and as a special adviser to a number of UK ministers between 1992 and 1995. He was then head of Ted Heath’s private office from 1995 to 2000 and the Conservative Party candidate for Watford in 2001.

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“It is set a couple of years in the future in 2026”, Matthew explains. “Labour and Conservatives have failed the nation. Inflation is 12 and a half per cent and the stock market has collapsed and Labour and Tory politicians have started defecting to a new centrist party led by a former Tory MP and reality TV star called John Waggner. We think possibly he might have been on I'm A Celebrity. He's obviously popular with the general public. Our piece starts with us waiting for the results of the election. He gets in but he does not get a full majority but he does become the prime minister.

Party Games (contributed pic)Party Games (contributed pic)
Party Games (contributed pic)

“Michael McManus who wrote it knows this world and he knows the people and it does feel very worryingly authentic. I did meet him for a cup of tea and he said he was going to come to the first rehearsal and then perhaps leave us to it.”

It is certainly going to be interesting: “In this piece we've got an idiot as the prime minister. And we've got a guy coming in that is not being elected but is a special advisor a la Dominic Cummings who wields much power. It is all terribly believable. It is all what we think already but this party does try to do the right thing. They've got their hearts in the right place. Who knows maybe this could happen.”

As for the Prime Minister, Matthew, speaking before the start of rehearsals, said: “I have got to make a decision how much of the bumbling blusterer I put in. He is affected and lazy but underneath there is something else going on. I'm not going to go on there and do an impression of the man whose name we must not speak. I'm going to try to make him my own if I can but he does spout Latin and that is certainly very Boris but I'm certainly not going to do a Boris impersonation.

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“I'm really not political myself so I'm certainly going to be learning a lot. For the rehearsals the director says that there's no such thing as a stupid question but I think I'm going to be changing her mind on that one! But we've got four weeks of rehearsals and it's going to be great.”

And making it extra special is the fact that this is the premiere: “To be the first person speaking those words is really thrilling as an actor. It's thrilling but it's also slightly terrifying because it's comedy and you just don't know how the comedy is going to be perceived until you get in front of an audience. And that's what's terrifying but it's also really exciting. I've always enjoyed new doing new plays in the past.”