The playwright James Graham is one of our most prolific and popular dramatists, renowned for both his stage plays and TV dramatizations. He has carved out a niche in bringing contemporary political history to life, turning sometimes arcane events into lucid and compelling drama. His 2012 play This House at the National Theatre, for example, charted the backroom activities of parliamentary whips during the Labour government of the late 1970s and subsequently ran for two years in the West End and on tour. In fact at the same time as the revival of This House, he also had a second play running simultaneously in the West End, Labour of Love which surveys the recent history of the Labour party and which won an Olivier Award for best new comedy, as unlikely as that sounds.
His recent stage successes have included Ink, about Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of the Sun newspaper, and Quiz, the story of the contestant who cheated to win the top prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. James adapted the Quiz stage play into a three-part TV series which captivated the country when it was aired during lockdown in April 2020, becoming a TV event watched live by more than five million households. James has continued to dramatize real-life political figures and events in his other TV work, Coalition re-imagined the formation of the Coalition government in the UK in 2010, and more recently Brexit – The Uncivil War in which his even-handed portrayal of the campaign guru Dominic Cummings, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, generated some contentious reaction. In fact James’s treatment of his at-times controversial material is distinguished by an open-minded impartiality, a balance which by definition is at stake in the debates and characters that we encounter in Best of Enemies.
James recommended Shook by Samuel Bailey – see episode 22!