Camden Fringe Festival
Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 12 August 2019
Full disclosure, I was not excited about seeing a show about Boris Johnson. Frankly I’m feeling a tad Boris-ed out these days, but fortunately, given a lively and plentiful audience, not everyone seems to be turned off by the subject matter.
So what did I think of Boris Rex? In short, I loved it. It was weirdly joyful in a terrible, unnerving, end of Britain kind of way. Charlie Dupré has written a disturbing but fascinating piece about the rise of Boris Johnson. In addition to being the playwright, he also plays a very sinister Jacob Rees-Mogg and an only mildly less sinister Time. There is an anarchic energy to the show that kept me hooked throughout.
The cast of four rise up to the challenge of playing multiple well-known political figures with glorious gusto. Luke Theobald (our Boris), Henry Bauckham and Lydia Cashman join Dupré in bringing to life a show of Shakespearean proportions. Maybe it is the layers of Shakespearean language and adapted speeches that help make the retelling of very recent history more palatable to those that are feeling jaded about the state of Britain today. It certainly doesn’t sugar coat things, the words “You can’t say you weren’t warned” still echo around my head. But there is something cathartic in seeing current affairs through a pseudo-historical lens.
What really elevated this show for me, was the fusion of storytelling devices. Yes, Shakespeare is borrowed from extensively, but add to this music, rap, spoken word and some razor-sharp comedy, and you have something fresh and invigorating. I left the theatre buzzing, which is no mean feat in the face of impending doom!
Cameron, Corbyn, Rees Mogg, Gove, May, Putin and even the ghost of Maggie Thatcher, all make an appearance. I suspect someone with no knowledge of recent UK politics would find this show confusing, but it isn’t for them. It’s for those of us that are having to live through it.
So don’t let the Boris in Boris Rex put you off. This is an inventive delight of a show. I’d highly recommend catching it during its run at the Tristan Bates before it closes on the 10th August.