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‘The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson’ review

  • Theatre, Comedy
  • 2 out of 5 stars
The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, Park Theatre 2019
© Pamela RaithWill Barton (Boris Johnson)

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

This clunking BoJo satire has nothing new to say about the floppy-haired egotist

Well this is, um, weird. And bad. Jonathan Maitland, who’s previously penned successful plays about Geoffrey Howe and Jimmy Savile, puts an altogether more contentious figure on stage for his latest work: the ex-London Mayor, ex-Foreign Secretary, and old Etonian MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. It doesn’t go well: ‘The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson’ is a distinctly disjointed, horribly ham-fisted attempt at satire, redeemable only thanks to the handful of decent impressions served-up by its hard-working cast. Armando Iannucci this ain’t.

The first half revolves around the infamous 2016 Islington dinner party at which Johnson and Michael Gove agonised over which side they would support in the EU referendum. The second takes place ten years into the future, when an aged Johnson once again sees a referendum as his ticket to the top, only this time he’s supporting rejoining the EU – ‘Brentry’, as Maitland has it. Churchill, Thatcher and Blair pop-up from time to time as his recalcitrant conscience.

It is, at its heart, an attempt to skewer the BoJo myth, to reveal the man behind the buffoonery. But there’s precious little insight here, either psychological or political; you don’t have to be Laura Kuenssberg to know that Boris just wants to be PM, at all costs. The jokes are basic, too – tired old tropes that stopped being funny about three years ago. Boris speaks funny! Boris has messy hair! Boris sleeps around! Ha! Perhaps it’s just the Donald Trump paradox: a man so absurd as to be beyond parody.

In the title role, Will Barton is more impersonating than acting, but it’s a very good impersonation nonetheless, subtly shifting between the person and the tousled, tongue-twisting persona. Tim Wallers supplies an uncanny Huw Edwards, and a pretty funny Tony Blair too – all teeth and waves. Steve Nallon’s Margaret Thatcher is practiced and pitch-perfect.

But, save for a Buster Keaton-esque coup at the curtain, Lotte Wakeham’s production feels clunky and shapeless, lumbering under some severely lumpen dialogue. The whole thing’s a slow-motion car-crash. Like Brexit, I guess, only not half as funny.

Written by
Fergus Morgan


£18.50-£32.50, £16.50-£23.50 concs. Runs 2hr 10min
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