How to trump Miss Trunchbull? Go from Dahl to The Donald! PATRICK MARMION reviews The 47th

The 47th (Old Vic, London)


Verdict: Carvel’s Trumptastic  

Few of us want to relive the Trump years in the White House, but as Mike Bartlett’s new play suggests, we may have to.

So buckle up for Bertie Carvel, as the terrifyingly quiffed agent orange, in a play that imagines rival Democrat and Republican bids to put America’s 47th President in the White House in 2024. 

Written in Shakespearean blank verse, Bartlett’s play follows his previous hit divining the political future of the British monarchy, King Charles III. 

Here, Trump enters on a golf cart, before having a King Lear moment and demanding his three elder children make him an offer to secure their inheritance.

Then, like Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, he goes on to stitch up Ted Cruz at a Republican election rally.

Further echoes of the Bard abound, including a scene with Trump in jail, sporting an orange jumpsuit even brighter than his fake tan, and mulling his political future like a much less doubtful Richard II,

All larks and literary references are, however, dwarfed by Carvel’s sensational turn as The Donald. 

Bertie Carvel plays Donald Trump in The 47th, a play that imagines rival Democrat and Republican bids to put America¿s 47th President in the White House in 2024

Bertie Carvel plays Donald Trump in The 47th, a play that imagines rival Democrat and Republican bids to put America’s 47th President in the White House in 2024

Back in a fat suit like the one he wore as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda in 2010, he has a double chin fitted beneath his usually chiselled jaw.

Carvel plays Trump as if he were still presiding over a White House press conference: finger-pointing, holding up a palm of resistance, tilting his head sideways, moving his lips as if chomping on an invisible cigar. 

And, of course, that weirdly camp voice — though I think Carvel may have pitched him a semi-tone higher than the real deal.

Most marvellously, Trump’s bonkers, bite-size Twitter philosophy is a perfect fit with Bartlett’s modern take on Shakespearean verse.

Between them, Bartlett and Carvel nail Trump as a supreme strategist with no apparent strategy.

My only doubt was whether The 47th actually penetrated the carapace of American politics. Brilliant and witty, indisputably; but is it also insightful? 

Bertie Carvel is back in a fat suit, similar to his performance as Miss Trunchbull (pictured) in Roald Dahl's Matilda, A Musical in 2010

Bertie Carvel is back in a fat suit, similar to his performance as Miss Trunchbull (pictured) in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, A Musical in 2010

Best seat in the house 

The hound of the baskervilles

Catch the ever-enterprising Original Theatre Company’s three-person Sherlock spoof, set in Dartmoor’s Baskerville Hall, and starring Jake Ferretti as the detective in the deerstalker.

Suitable for 8+, from £18, originaltheatre 

Or does it simply recycle the usual wisdom about the irrational monster beyond the reach of the decent, omni- reasonable Democrats?

Rupert Goold’s slick production glibly presents Trump’s supporters as little more than a primitive death cult, intent on re-storming the Capitol (with their leader wearing the now familiar bull-horn headdress).

Most significantly, Bartlett’s play can’t get over the fact that Trump is also the most fun on stage. 

Which makes it hard to root for his opponent, Kamala Harris (Tamara Tunie). She is an earnest fantasy of tortured sincerity: saintly and dull.

More lively is Ivanka Trump, played by Lydia Wilson. She does Daddy’s bidding and keeps her brothers to heel, waiting for the moment to strike.

Fittingly, the show is staged on what looks like a giant coin, with views of the White House and other footage projected beyond.

The end — which I won’t give away here — lacks the bustle of what goes before. 

But it’s still a triumph of sport over politics; and if you’re offering to predict the future, that seems to be the right way around.

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy (Royal Court, London)


Verdict: Moving confessions 

Don’t be misled by the title of the Royal Court’s new show. 

Although it does exactly what it says on the tin, and works as a kind of self-help manual for black men suffering from serious depression, it’s also a remarkable and transfiguring piece of theatre.

With six guys in an encounter group set up on a multi-coloured stage fitted with stacking chairs and scaffolding, Ryan Calais Cameron’s play works through some of the stigmatising social obstacles faced by young black men with disarming honesty and humour.

Issues include fathers, notions of masculinity, use of the ‘n’ word, attitudes to women, knife crime and, most movingly, depression.

Presented in a raw, confessional style Cameron’s play, directed with Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, is written as a collage of street poetry evoking hope, fear, traumatic memories, frustration, aspiration, belief and a twist of sociology.

Some talk about women strays dangerously close to misogyny, but the overwhelming impression is of pain transcended.

This is amplified by Theophilus O. Bailey-Godson’s choreography woven into the performance which starts with the six men tangled together as if they were a single organism practising Tai Chi.

Nnabiko Ejimofor, in particular, is stunningly visceral in this movement; but this is very much an ensemble performance, greeted with whoops of joyful recognition by the audience. 


Mother of all revivals, as Frank Spencer takes to the stage

Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em (Touring)


Verdict: Retro Fun 

Joe Pasquale is Frank Spencer, a role made famous by Michael Crawford, in Guy Unsworth’s comedy based on the 1970s television series. 

Pasquale neatly avoids making his role an homage; instead it’s a vehicle for his comedy skills, honed in pantomime (Mr Unsworth, who also directs, packs the script with groaners and tongue-twisters).

Frank — an unemployed, disaster-prone man-child — wants to be a magician, but we just know his sleight of hand will be as good as his DIY (‘I’ll add that to my list,’ he says as yet another bodged job needs redoing). He is, in one of his malapropisms, ‘a Dick of all trades’.

The first act takes a while to set up a misunderstanding over wife Betty’s (Sarah Earnshaw) pregnancy, as people come for dinner. 

Her mother (Susie Blake), mum’s bank-manager beau (Moray Treadwell) and Father O’Hara (James Paterson) all congratulate him, but Frank (who doesn’t know he’s about to become a dad) thinks they’re pleased he has an audition for a TV talent show. 

Cue confusion galore when the show’s producer (Mr Treadwell in a double role) and cameraman (Ben Watson) visit.

Thankfully, the pace picks up in the second half and gentle comedy turns into farce (with obligatory missing trousers). Good-hearted fun.

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