It’s the nightmare scenario that all makes sense: Donald Trump throws his hat back into the ring in the next US presidential election. Still not interested in serving the country. Out for revenge. British playwright Mike Bartlett sets foot in that unsettling scenario, with a new play that, like Trump himself, swings between scary and outrageous comics. Under the arresting direction of Rupert Goold, there are moments that truly feel as if all the garish spectacle and inner torture of American politics has spilled onto the London stage.
As with his victorious Olivier King Charles III, Bartlett tries to add a Shakespearean timbre to the proceedings, with success this time. The empty sentence gives the proceedings a go, but there’s nothing about Trump, real or imagined, that can match Charles’s overbearing, bone-chilling personality.
tragedy. Which says, 47th certainly provocative, with a remarkable performance at its heart from Bertie Carvel, recently seen as Banquo in Joel Coen’s Macbeth’s Tragedy.
Carvel’s entrance was hilarious – driving a golf cart onto the stage, before hitting the ball that missed the flag and sent his ball flying over the edge of the drum. More prominent than the stunt, is the appearance. It’s hard to describe the impact of Carvel’s strange body transformation: when he first appeared, the actor’s true features were so completely hidden that it seemed as if someone else had been cast. at the last minute. It elicits the most double, or even triple, increase.
So special mention must be made of Richard Mawbey and Rob Wilson of wigs, hairdos and makeup. At the same time, the chameleon Carvel (who brilliantly plays the incredibly powerful, real-life impersonator, Rupert Murdoch, in Squid) was completely immersed in his character: the voice was slurred, halfway between harangue and supplication; catalog of hand gestures; calculated back position to compensate for the intestines; man’s predicament and menace.
This isn’t a simple impersonation, however, as the writing and performance suggest a slightly different Trump: a few years older, a bit older but Machiavellian – though of course he admits he isn’t yet. read Prince because it’s “too long.” Carvel’s superb ingenuity with Bartlett’s blank verse offers the most effective use of language, as it gives a new dimension to the already depressed public personality.
From the golf course, he speaks directly to the audience. “I know you hate me… Your hate is real and beautiful… You just can’t understand me.” And with that, Bartlett offers a reminder of why his play isn’t merely flowery: Donald really isn’t going away.
The playwright reveals his intentions in succinct order, while rather clumsily mixing and matching his Shakespearean references. Similarly, Trump challenged his three oldest children, Donald Jr. (Oscar Lloyd), Eric (Freddie Meredith) and Ivanka (Lydia Wilson) compete for the role of heir, and Ivanka won that dubious honor. Later, after pledging to confirm Ted Cruz (James Garnon) as the Republican nominee, like Richard III, he confided in the audience about his intention to “plan and plot” for “my only revenge”.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden (Simon Williams) is close to committing to a second term – despite his age and surprisingly with the support of Kamala Harris (Tamara Tunie), who has spent four years Disappointed playing the second game. The stage was set for Trump to rob a Republican convention (this time Mark Antony, and with the new tagline: “America’s Rules”), having Harris join the battle instead of Biden and Ivanka set up. behind-the-scenes plans to replace her dad sooner than he thought.
This play is strongest when it hints at the continued erosion of American Democracy that a return Trump will provide – the man is simply continuing where he left off, by widening his life. Uprising in the Capitol on a national scale and calling for the “fire of liberty”. The presence of an unruly mob, including QAnon Shaman (Joss Carter), really sends chills down your spine. Bartlett then considers what effect this has had on the principled Harris, upholding her belief in the right process while under considerable pressure to play dirty with herself.
Bartlett is somewhat more shaky in the family scenes, with the Trump sons badly protected and the initial premise of Shakespearean rivalry turning into a non-dramatic Ivanka jaunt. Another side storyline involving a sibling divided by their party loyalty is also weak, although the Democrats unfortunately clashed with the insurgents.
Tunie (Laws & Orders: Special Victims Unit) is a persuasive, powerful Harris under fire, taking on more than her fair share of “deserving but dull” lines (Bartlett at least admits this, by being cut out by Trump. her because of boredom). Williams gives a lovely cameo as poor Joe Biden, ultimately succumbing to age and the sheer horror of facing Trump a second time. And Garnon impresses as both Cruz (desperate, stupid, adorable) and leader of the Trumpian mob.
But along with Carvel, it was Wilson who captured the imagination as Ivanka. Wilson played Kate Middleton in King Charles III, so the rendering of a particular function as a family member is conspiring in the wings. This time, the character without his accomplice, Jared Kushner is written from this domestic soap version. Wilson wears it alone, in a closet to die, subtly, stylishly outlining Ivanka’s path from family loyalty to seizing power. Interestingly, just this week, the real-life Ivanka did a similar thing before the January 6 committee.
The corners of The Old Vic’s ornate auditorium naturally give the appearance of government buildings, and for the duration of the conference, banners were conveniently hung from the boxes. of the theatre. On the other hand, Miriam Buether’s sleek, versatile design allows for everything from Florida golf courses to war rooms and prison cells, with inverted projections notably creating a frenetic mood. , crazy. As the promotional tape hits the audience literally, some people may inadvertently find themselves tempted to shout, “America’s Rules.”
Location: The Old Vic, London
Starring: Bertie Carvel, Tamara Tunie, Lydia Wilson, James Cooney, James Garnon, Jenni Maitland, Cherrelle Skeete, Ami Tredrea, Simon Williams, Oscar Lloyd, Freddie Meredith, Joss Carter
Playwright: Mike Bartlett
Directed by: Rupert Goold
Set Designer: Miriam Buether
Costume designer: Evie Gurney
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Music: Adam Cork
Sound Designer: Tony Gayle
Presented by The Old Vic, Sonia Friedman Productions, Annapurna Theater