Macblair

Charlie Dupré’s Macblair reimagines the political life of Tony Blair as, to quote the production’s marketing, ‘a Shakespearean tragicomedy’. While this is perhaps too lofty a description for what is essentially a good fun hour of light satire with a sprinkling of blank verse, Macblair does use the premise of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a template for its narrative.

Macblair is a solid hour of satire, entertaining to watch but not ground-breaking.

In 1994, Macblair and Macbrown meet three mysterious hacks on a stairwell in the House of Commons who prophesize that Macblair will soon become leader of the Labour Party, then Prime Minister, then King of the World. The first two steps of this prediction quickly come to pass, leaving an ambitious Macblair in 10 Downing Street flanked by Cherie and Alastair Campbell, with Macbrown suspiciously and cynically lurking in the Treasury. What follows is a high-speed romp through the successes and failures of the Blair administration, punctuated by rap, political celebrity cameo appearances and well-handled moments of genuine tragedy.

From this summary you might expect that Macblair would be full of cheap political one-liners and ham-fisted references to Macbeth, but thankfully this is – for the most part – not the case. The script loosely follows the structure of Shakespeare’s play, with occasional passages of contemporary blank verse and even more infrequent passages of verbatim quotation. This is a wise strategy and is pulled off well, allowing for more flexibility and fun in developing the characters than would otherwise be possible. And when Macblair directly coincides with Macbeth, the set pieces that result end up being some of the show’s most adeptly handled moments. Especially brilliant are the revealing of the shadowy apparition who guides the hacks – the play’s real power-broker – and Macblair’s soliloquy before deciding whether or not to commit Britain to an invasion of Iraq as a parallel to Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan. There is sadness in this production too; Macblair is haunted by victims of the Iraq War as he sleeps in a scene which is performed with sensitivity.

However, not everything is so well-judged or so successful. The opening is a forced pastiche of Macbeth, with the parody of the witches coming across flat and uninspiring (fortunately the hacks are incorporated more effectively later in the play). Elsewhere, a rap battle between Macblair and John Major is disappointing, feeling too easy, contrived and tired. There are more examples like these, but not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the play.

All four performers are strong. Dupré, the play’s writer and protagonist, is full of youthful energy and mimics the gradual shift in Blair’s tone from dynamic upstart to marginalised, but still self-important, elder statesmen with apparent ease. Particularly funny is his relationship with James Sanderson’s Macbrown, who is no-nonsense throughout, seeing through Macblair at every turn. Olivia Chappell excels in her role as Cherie Blair, absolutely spot-on with her facial expressions, and Matt Morrison’s Alastair Campbell is suitably boyish yet sneaky.

Macblair is a solid hour of satire, entertaining to watch but not ground-breaking.  

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

It is 1994. Returning from a successful parliamentary meeting, Macblair and Macbrown meet three weird hacks on a stairwell in the House of Commons. They prophesy that Macblair will become leader of the Labour party, then Prime Minister, and eventually… King of the World. But how seriously will Macblair take these omens? This is the story of Tony Blair as a Shakespearean tragicomedy. Performed by four actors, it uses verse, rap and comedy to examine the inner workings of the Blair era.