Never So Good, National Theatre, London

28th March 2008 at 00:00
I'll tell you what our modern political leaders are lacking: moustaches, sad eyes and pithy catchphrases.

Harold Macmillan, prime minister from 1957 to 1963, had all three in abundance. His soundbite - "you've never had it so good" - crystallised our image of the baby-boom era as a time of happy housewives, cheap consumer goods and rising wages.

His sad eyes bespoke a frustrated political career; too much time on the back benches during the Thirties, and a leadership stained by the aftermath of Suez and the fallout from Profumo. And his moustache? Well that would be the stiff upper lip that concealed his angst during his wife's long affair with Robert Boothby, the bushy-browed Conservative MP.

All are dug up and examined in Never So Good (pictured below), starring Jeremy Irons at the National Theatre, a dramatisation of Macmillan's painful wartime experiences (he was left wounded in a foxhole with a bullet in his pelvis during the Battle of the Somme) and a troubled political life that ended in an undignified resignation in the Sixties.

The press dubbed him "Supermac", but this play portrays Macmillan as a complex, brilliant personality whose demise was brought about in part by his flaws.

Performances started this week and run until the end of May.

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