Kingmaker

The creators of last year’s hit political parody Coalition have returned to answer that very current question: what if Boris Johnson runs for the job of Prime Minister? The result is Kingmaker – slick, playful political satire sharpened to a delightful point.

It doesn’t pack the punch of some more charged shows on this year, but I cannot accuse it of a single fault.

The audience is given a look into a secluded office, deep in the bowels of Westminster. Three political figures, thinly veiled from their real world personas but thickly developed as characters, attempt to outmanoeuvre each other and ensure their personal aims. The piece focuses not merely on the figure of Boris, “the great un-politician”. We see the machinations and/or naivety of politics in general, with a snarky battle of wills that naturally slips in and out of the professional and the personal, the petty and the human. One-line jibes at Conservatives or certain chancellors are plentiful enough, but these are just the icing on three wonderfully-sustained character satires. Joanna Bending’s take on Theresa May is stunning in its emotional range as she drifts between smooth exterior and internal turmoil, and Laurence Dobiesz’s portrayal of a naive junior MP is a brilliant foil to the others’ underhand ways. Thankfully, they manage to act believable representations of their respective figures, rather than resorting to mere imitations or impressions.

That said, the verbal, physical, and rhetorical tics of all three characters are pinned down to a T. Alan Cox’s precise portrayal of Boris Johnson’s bumbling mannerisms should make you worry if Cox ever attempts to go into politics himself - or it should make you question the true man or woman behind the smooth political fronts we’re so used to seeing. As the opening of the play aptly reminds us, coming across as authentic requires a lot of technique. The irony of making this statement in a theatre is not lost on the performers; the soliloquies are brilliant breaks from the dialogue, structuring the piece masterfully.

Even when the emotional pitch is raised, the humour remains unaffected, and the piece is too cheerfully self-conscious to really commit to a sense of personal tragedy. But it treads a wonderful line, all to the production’s benefit. It doesn’t pack the punch of some more charged shows on this year, but I cannot accuse it of a single fault.

Reviews by Henry St Leger

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A bumbling, charismatic London Mayor challenges his enemies to become prime minister. But will his comic and colourful past destroy him? A new satire by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, writers of 2012 Edinburgh hit Coalition: ‘Real class’ **** (Times), **** (Scotsman) and Making News: ‘More punch than a Paxman interrogation’ **** (ThreeWeeks), **** (Times). Starring Alan Cox. Directed by multiple award-winning Hannah Eidinow.