Well so much for the Old Red Lion's reputation for uncompromising, gritty, dystopian, in-yer-face drama with attitude. Until 4th January we have that rarest of theatrical beasts, the farce. Having said that, it's currently joined by The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre – perhaps a conscious decision to provide some lighter fare in the run up to Christmas, perhaps just an admission that it's the only possible take on contemporary politics.

For both these plays take an MP on the make as their theme, which seems such a natural subject for farce that it's easy to forget that the term "Whitehall farce" actually refers to the theatre of that name, not the subject matter. The farce is perhaps the most English of genres. As Jeremy Hardy once put it, whereas American drama is rooted in confrontation, the quintessence of English drama is "well-meaning people getting themselves in a frightful pickle".

For all that some people are a bit sniffy about it, it's perhaps the hardest style of theatre to bring off. The greatest masters of the art weave an intricate web of confusion, with lies told to suit the needs of the moment instantly rebounding on the liar with the entrance of a new character who believes (or must be made to believe) a different version of events. The acme of the genre is perhaps Alan Ayckbourne's Relatively Speaking, in which, among many other confusions, one character believes he sees a woman asking her own daughter whether she was born in London.

There's generally some sort of authority figure from whom the truth must be kept, often a wife who mustn't find out about an affair (you see why politicians make such good subjects?), and often a hapless lowly functionary, forced to take the blame for the sins of his betters. The difficulty lies in getting the balance right, tightening the noose around the neck of your protagonist without the whole thing getting so complex that the audience just gives up trying to follow who believes what about whom – Ray Cooney's Two Into One spirals to such levels of complexity that he was forced to end it with a character simply turning to the audience and saying "I think this is the end", and I doubt many of them would disagree.

The upstanding member of the title of this show is an MP known only as "the man" (perhaps because there are so many he could conceivably stand for?) We open seemingly with two burglars, who we soon realise are in the employ of a shady tabloid owner, looking for a mobile phone that's been left somewhere in this MP's London flat. Enter the MP himself, along with his lawyer to discuss the success of the super-injunction that's prevented the press from reporting his dalliance with a call girl, meaning the burglars have to hide as best they can. The trouble is, the call girl's now pregnant, and sure enough she turns up before long, as does the MP's suspicious wife. When the burglars are discovered, what can they possibly do but pretend to be lawyers representing the two sides in this dispute?

Gregory Skulnick's play is blessed with a strong cast without any weak links, and slick direction from Hamish MacDougall both keeps the play moving and ensures we see all the physical shenanigans we're supposed to. Acting honours go to Ed Sheridan as Mr Graver, the put-upon lawyer who dearly wishes he hadn't come back for his briefcase, who kept his composure when an audience member decided to be helpful by handing him some coins he'd dropped (the joys of live theatre) and managed to get a laugh purely from the comic timing of when he put them on the table. Also excellent are Izaak Cainer and Tim Dewberry as the two burglars forced to feign a knowledge of legal jargon ("in a court of law, which to my mind is the best kind of court"), as are Kate Craggs as the call girl and Stephen Omer as the upstanding member at the centre of it all.

On the downside, at nearly two hours straight through the play does outstay its welcome a bit, and there are any number of "Oh no, X has just walked in!" moments where they might have put an interval. Likewise, I suspect that by the end the playwright himself was weary of keeping track of who believes what, giving characters generic lines about "this whole wretched business" rather than anything more specific. Still, there's no denying the laughter and joy this piece provoked in this intimate setting.

The Upstanding Member, at Old Red Lion Theatre

A likeable political farce about an upstanding Member (of Parliament) who tries and fails to get himself out of hot water. And there's not a duck house in sight. At the Old Red Lion.

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