‘They all knew the person I was when they gave me the part,’ Harry Kershaw complains, words that ring hollow and true, in a prophetic sort of manner, a common feeling that we get from watching Adam Meggido’s Boris III. Meggido's play is probably as close to a villain origin story as we’d probably get for our former prime minister.
A truly masterful depiction
Set during an Eton production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, an eighteen year old Boris Johnson (Harry Kershaw) has to balance playing the lead, not cheating on his girlfriend whilst trying to avoid punishment for throwing a party in his dorm, everything that sounds eerily familiar. What ensues is chaos as Boris tries to charm and joke his way through Shakespeare, forcing everyone to rush and work around him to make up for his incompetence.
Boris III is a careful construction on the part of Meggido, absolutely nothing appears far-fetched. From phrases that we have heard Johnson say in real life to excuse his behaviour to wearing a fake hunchback so that he isn’t forced to do any work, Meggido really taps into the psyche of Boris Johnson, and we really have to wonder, how on earth did we let Johnson get away with it for so long. It would have been interesting to see Meggido’s show at the beginning of Johnson’s reign as prime minister, how much would we have laughed then, because at this point of time, we are very much laughing partly from relief.
Kershaw is perfectly cast as Boris, hard to say exactly what it is, but his representation is scarily realistic. I don’t think anyone else could have played the part so well. Between the mannerisms and accent, it is as if a younger Boris is standing on the stage in front of us. Kershaw carries himself with an unbearable swagger, sowing destruction and chaos in a completely self-centered way, and it’s impossible to look away as he ruins everything around him, albeit a small scale. It’s horrifying, but between Kershaw’s performance and Meggido’s writing, it is truly a masterful depiction.
There is a sense of schadenfreude that hangs over the auditorium during Boris III, and it’s incredibly difficult not to make parallels between Meggido’s play and the past three years. A clown can’t be a king, and a king can’t be a clown, but unfortunately, we did have a clown king, and that is what makes Meggido's satire all too real.