Bullingdon Revisited

Bizarre is the word that has stalked my mind since watching Bullingdon Revisited. Telling the infamous story of Dave, Boris and a pig, we follow a young David Cameron as he arrives at Oxford and pursues the attentions of the Bullingdon Club. Soon Dave and an artful dodger-ish Boris Johnson begin an outlandish journey of debauchery in epic farcical fashion.

Bullingdon is a ramshackle production

We open with an older David Cameron (Adam Martin-Brooks); it isn’t clear if the scene is making light of dementia or condemning Cameron’s disregard for others. We quickly travel back in time to Oxford. The main issue with the way Cameron is presented is that he doesn't really resemble the man that we all know; there is no intriguing twisting of his demeanour or even caricature. At least Boris (Luke Richards) sounds accurate and has the dynamism to convey youth as he storms on stage in a wacky wig and shiny suit. There are no interesting insights into the subjects, but rather stale one-sided characters who have already been done better by others. When Margaret Thatcher (Alison Young) appears as the queen of the boys’ hearts and the main subject of the farce’s disgust, we are at least treated to some character work – even if she appears more like the Queen than Thatcher.

All this might be forgiven if there was any sense of tone, however the piece is devoid of such with awkward gaps preventing momentum. The performances as well as a simplistic script by writer Tess Humphrey rely heavily on a selective audience, even though the event exudes universal comic potential. There are other issues: questionable references to Jewish people stick out, while we are often not quite sure what is happening. Neither The Bullingdon Club’s significance nor the boys’ constant sexism (in spite of their reverence for Thatcher) are ever definitively explained. A dance number to Baba O’ Riley is unfounded, rhythm is repetitive and non-varied, while pacing is nonexistent.

Bullingdon Revisited is a ramshackle production; audio comes late, at one point so late it caused the actors to break character in a bizarre interlude where the pig’s head quotes Enoch Powell. As well as tech, reactions often came before the action they were responding to, indicating a serious lack of active listening and receiving.

Bullingdon Revisited has many things going for it. The cast provide abundant energy and commitment while the script includes great gags – Boris is seemingly unable to pronounce his own middle name – but they aren’t well executed and opportunities are missed. The piece’s main issue, however, is that it does little to no work to create something engaging and seemingly relies almost completely on an audience it has little respect for to share its sense of humour and mindset. The irony is that it seems to resemble a play put on by a boy’s boarding house in the Bullingdon itself.

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The Blurb

It's 1986, one glorious summer's evening among the dreaming spires of Oxford University. 19-year-old Dave is trying out his new look as a punk, and going out on the town hoping to impress the infamous, elitist Bullingdon Club with his racy antics. Things are looking glum until he meets ultra-popular third-year student, Boris. A wild night gets underway – there is a police chase, an incident with a pig, and if they are lucky, they might get a glimpse of the sexy and powerful Margaret Thatcher...

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