April 6th, 2022. The Old Vic.
Genius. It’s flipping genius.
Mike Bartlett has once again taken real life and imagined what’s next. His Charles III was magnificent and this is too. Bartlett is like a modern-revisionist Shakespeare. And I am here for it.
Told in blank verse, this is the story of what happens in 2023 and beyond as the Conventions start in the 2024 Presidential race. But this isn't simply the story of Trump getting the next presidency, this is so much more complex and Machiavellian than that.
It’s equally the story of Trump, Kamala Harris and Ivanka Trump.
We start with Trump. The gasp from the audience as Bertie Carvel drives his golf buggy onto the stage to play a hole of golf is audible. What a transformation. What a performance.
I am so glad there were no images to spoil this shock (I saw a preview). Cos it is a real shock. I kept reality checking in my head. It’s not him, but it it is. Carvel captures Trump’s hand and head movements and how he leans with a hunch over his prey (he looks like a preying mantis) perfectly and unsettlingly. And the voice, it’s uncanny and a little unnerving as he calls the audience out for hating him in the first minute.
I’m calling Carvel as the Olivier for Best Actor 2022 now. Out-fricking-standing.
Tamara Tunie is equally brilliant. Poised, gracious, considerate, intellectual, she wants to support Joe Biden but really she needs to be “given more to do”. The scenes between Harris and Trump are sparky — the street fighter vs the gravitas. “I’m speaking…” says it all with 2 words.
The Trump offspring are a motley bunch as you’d imagine from a family with a sociopathic tyrant for a father. The King Lear-esque scene of him asking his children who loves him best so he can decide who to make his heir is excellent. Ivanka is Cordelia but in this twist, she gets the honour. She’s a complex character, she’s learned at the feet of her father. She’s his second in command but he treats her abominably and with so little respect linked to her sex and his perceived weakness. Their scenes are astonishing. And her cold treatment of her father at the end is that of a child who is overflowing with childhood trauma.
At the end we see a man weak of body, yet angry of spirit.
Its 2hrs 20 and it felt like 5 minutes. I couldn’t look away. The originality, the smarts, the audacity.