‘Rollicking political comedy’: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF BORIS JOHNSON – Park Theatre ★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Shanine SalmonLeave a Comment

Park Theatre, London – until 8 June 2019
Guest reviewer: Joe Moss

The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, currently playing at the Park Theatre, is a rollicking political comedy which leaves the audience in stitches. There is some political analysis but this is not really a heavy play about serious political ideas, despite its peek into a possible future, this is a topical play rather than one written for posterity
and is above all funny. Based partly on the 2016 leadership contest, and partly in a future 2029 post-Brexit equivalent, what this play does is offer interesting perspectives on power and why politicians want it and create comic scenes worthy of top sitcoms in the process.

Your political ideas are not really important here, plenty to laugh about at both former major parties and surreal Banquoesque scenes with political giants living and dead only adding hilarity to the situation. Perhaps some will argue that politics, especially those relating to unresolved current affairs, needs to be dealt with more seriously. Some of the critics who have scoffed at this play are, I think, suffering from this unfortunate misconception. I say tosh to that, some of the worst politicians in history are the self-important prigs who have no sense of humour.

Will Barton is a physically lightweight Boris, but he has the voice, mannerisms and unkempt look down to a t. Tim
Wallers has some excellent cameos but his turn as Lebedev the self-important, vain, name-dropping owner of the Standard (which astonishingly gives the play a poor review) is outrageously good. His Tony Blair ain’t half-bad either.

It
would be churlish to refrain from commending the entire cast – and the writer as well. Jonathan Maitland has written a play which like his earlier An Evening With Jimmy Saville, does rely rather a lot on actors being able to impersonate well-known figures convincingly but where ‘An Evening’ was dark this is riotous, it manages to make great comedy out of Brexit,
whichever side of the divide one might be.

By drumming up the ghosts of politicians past Maitland hints at the continuity of political arguments, going back to the
immediate postwar period to remind us of Churchill’s advocacy of a United States of Europe – although he is, presumably intentionally, incorrect in claiming wanted to be the President of such a state. In fact Churchill thought
Great Britain should be outside the USE. Maitland also seems to be suggesting, even if it is for comedic purposes, that political ideas come full circle as the ironic denouement of the play portrays.

But I would not spend too much time on the finer political detail of this piece, it is simply great comedy. As one of the characters revived here said: “Rejoice! Just rejoice!”

Shanine Salmon on RssShanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.
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Shanine Salmon on RssShanine Salmon on Twitter
Shanine Salmon
Shanine Salmon was a latecomer to theatre after being seduced by the National Theatre's £5 entry pass tickets and a slight obsession with Alex Jennings. She is sadly no longer eligible for 16-25 theatre tickets but she continues to abuse under 30 offers. There was a market for bringing awareness that London theatre was affordable in an era of £100+ West End tickets – Shanine’s blog, View from the Cheap Seat, launched in April 2016, focuses on productions and theatres that have tickets available for £20 and under. She is also quite opinionated and has views on diversity, pricing, theatre seats and nudity on stage. Her interests include Rocky Horror, gaming, theatre (of course) and she also has her own Etsy shop. Shanine tweets at @Braintree_.

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