DOM – THE PLAY at The Other Palace
“a delightfully fresh and hilarious insight into the man who thinks the civil service is an “idea for history books””
Political satire is nothing new. Wherever organised government has existed it has always been inevitable. From Aristophanes to Dante to Shakespeare, and beyond. In some parts of the globe, it can lead to arrest, and worse. Thankfully not here (for now at least). Our small screens are full of it. Newspaper cartoonists are experts at it and literature is awash with it. And, of course, theatre cannot resist it.
Neil Green’s new comedy, “DOM the play”, opens on such a strong note that we wonder where it can go from here and whether it can sustain the level of sharp observation and comedy for the next two hours. The fact that it can is not just testament to the writing, but also to the performances of the four actors who occupy the stage at the Other Palace, mere meters away from where the real-life action takes place. But Green does have an advantage: the past few years have offered up some pretty rich pickings.
“DOM the play” is not just all about Dominic Cummings. Obviously, he is the main man, but co-star Boris Johnson tries to bumble his way into the spotlight, casting his dubious and ridiculous shadow over various allies and opponents. Yet it is Cummings who comes out on top. Art imitating life? You decide.
Here’s a competition. If you were given a list of quotations, would you be able to tell which are fact and which came from the writer’s keen imagination?
Chris Porter is Dominic Cummings. Outspoken and confidant he unashamedly gives us his views and versions of events, shining a light on the Brexit shenanigans, Barnard Castle, Covid, and Boris. Porter gives a quite simply stunning performance. Tracing the journey from Boris Johnson’s key confidant to worst enemy, he portrays an impossible character, but achieves the impossible feat of making him likeable (note – any references to the real-life Dominic Cummings are objective observation – based purely on the UK media’s impartial representation of him – and not a personal opinion at all).
The show offers a delightfully fresh and hilarious insight into the man who thinks the civil service is an “idea for history books” (Cummings). The man who proclaims, “I’m not a genius – everyone else is a dick” (Green). The Barnard Castle is glossed over and brushed aside. Durham Constabulary took no action over the trip, so what’s the big deal? The “£350m million a week for the NHS” he invented was discredited. So? And Brexit? The Foreign Office couldn’t negotiate themselves “out of a paper bag” (Cummings or Green – you decide. See what I mean?)
Tim Hudson, as Boris Johnson, is equally delightful. Accusations of caricature are irrelevant when portraying an already larger than life caricature. The beauty of the performances stem from the balance of scorn and affection, and the sheer humour. Some sensitive and contentious issues are addressed, but we never forget that this is entertainment. And the joy we feel from the cast members is infectious. Rebecca Todd and David Mildon, between them, appear as Cummings’ friends and foes (mainly the latter) including David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage, Tony Blair, John Prescott, Angela Markel, Prince Andrew, Theresa May, among others. Todd and Mildon complete the quartet with an acute eye for the mannerisms and accents. Without any costume change they switch characters seamlessly and convincingly, eschewing impersonation for realism.
Michael Kingsbury’s fast paced direction propels the action without a dip. There is barely a pause for the frequent laughter to die down. The jokes are as remorseless and shameless as the characters are unrepentant. The comedy derives from its honesty. It is only when we get home that the unsettling reality seeps in. It’s funny on stage – but the carnival of buffoons exists in real life. When Cummings backed up Johnson over the post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, he stated that Boris hadn’t lied in the election campaign because he “never had a scoobydoo what the deal he signed meant in the first place”. That’s not Green’s script. It’s verbatim.
Art imitating life? Not quite. The characters might not be remembered so favourably, but “DOM the play” will surely be recalled as a triumph.
Reviewed on 22nd February 2023
by Jonathan Evans
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