Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 9th August 2019
“a series of rambling vignettes of contemporary British political life that Shakespeare’s best lines cannot help”
Described as a “Shakespearean tragicomedy” in the promotional material, Boris Rex is about Boris Johnson’s rise to the highest office in the land. The script is liberally laced with quotes from Julius Caesar, Henry V, Richard III, Richard II and even the closing lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But even the magnificent language, often updated to suit our present times, cannot disguise the lack of a Shakespearean hero, or even an anti-hero, in this piece. Despite the energy that the performers bring to this script, Boris Rex, written by Charlie Dupré, is ultimately a series of rambling vignettes of contemporary British political life that Shakespeare’s best lines cannot help.
The four performers in Boris Rex, directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones, do entertaining work with spot on imitations of Boris and his circle. Charlie Dupré’s arch portrayal of puppeteer in chief Jacob Rees-Mogg is particularly enjoyable, and Lydia Cashman more than holds her own playing Theresa May, Samantha Cameron and a pitch perfect Michael Gove. Henry Bauckham’s David Cameron is very recognisable, and if Bauckham’s Jeremy Corbyn seems insignificant compared to the other conspirators in Boris’ circle, that might be a fault of the character, rather than of the acting. Last, but certainly not least, Boris himself, played by Luke Theobald, is instantly recognisable under the stage lights, if not always audible or understandable. But all credit to Theobald for taking on the roles of both Boris and the ghost of Margaret Thatcher at the same time in the best scene of the evening, where quotes from Julius Caesar actually seem quite appropriate.
As is often the case when watching a drama based on a chronological approach, Boris the character is obscured behind the progression of events, and the audience is left trying to figure out whether there was ever a grand plan in mind, which might have served as the basis for a plot. Or is Boris Rex just a study of the eponymous character’s ruthless grasping of opportunities whenever and wherever they might appear? Even Time himself, who makes a brief appearance to pull things together, does not throw much light on the matter. But perhaps the point of Boris Rex is just to tell the all too familiar story of a man who reaches for the stars without having much reason to do so, other than to satisfy his own longings for distinction.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Paddy Gormley
Tristan Bates Theatre until 12th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
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