Trumpageddon*** (King’s Head Theatre)

Posted: November 13, 2016 in Theatre

simon11This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

Suddenly it doesn’t feel so funny any more. A party-like atmosphere on the night of the American Presidential Election was generated, most thought, to celebrate the swan song of Simon Jay’s one-man show, the title of which implies a comic collision of one man with his own destiny. Now, as the hangover sets in,we know that that man will become the 45th President of the United States and this word mash-up title can be viewed afresh with a sense of foreboding that it may relate to the real destiny of us all.

A Stars and Stripes banner hangs proudly; red, while and blue balloons are scattered around the floor; and David Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans plays loudly to herald Jay;s entrance. He could pass for Boris Johnson, but the combed back hair and the American accent make him recognisable instantly as Donald Trump on the campaign trail. If this is to be a children’s party, the clown has arrived. The bluster, the self-delusion, the wild contradictions and the wandering hands are all here in Jay’s characterisation.

Jay;s challenge is to make his Trump more comical than the real thing and, understandably, he sometimes struggles in that quest. The show’s format is question and answer with the audience, relying on Jay’s own quick-wittedness. There are some excellent scripted gags – telling us that he wants to make America great again, Trump’s assertion that “the Confederacy was a good idea” gives a clue as to when he thinks it was great before – but there is also obvious padding, of which getting an audience member to play the party game Find the Bunny is the most unforgivable example.

Mrs Trump aka “Malaria” makes a brief appearance, beginning her speech with “As a black American woman, I…”. With at least 50% of all Jay’s audiences likely to be women, Trump’s alleged misogyny provides him with a rich seam for jokes and he piles sexist insults on them and similar insults on the disabled, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community. However, common decency, good taste and maybe UK laws constrain him more than seems to be the case with the real Trump and there are times when, mischievously, we want him to really let rip, even if it is at the expense of a few walkouts.

The show is to have one last performance at the King’s Head on 14 November, the audience for which will have had time to ponder on what the future holds. Will the Great Wall of Mexico be visible from the Moon? Will Trump ditch “Malaria” and tie the knot with Putin? On the morning of 9 November 2016, Americans have told the star of their version of The Apprentice “You’re hired!” and anything seems possible, but, hoping that that the next four years will bring more comedy than tragedy, there should be every opportunity for Jay to reinvent his show and take it further

Performance date: 8 November 3016


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