He takes the stage to cheers followed by boos, a Prime Minister turned chat show host, ominously or wonderfully caricatured, no doubt depending on how you get the real version, in Jonathan Maitland Boris: living together, one of many performances by Boris Johnson at this year’s Fringe. Audiences today seem both horrified and delighted to be able to ask questions of the “bloated” comedic ghoul sitting in front of them – a self-satisfied toad reminiscent of the white, straight comedian you (before?) Festival, who says “non-PC” things that “everyone (supposedly?) really thinks about” and are laughed at because it’s just comedy or, these days, the government.
Behind the scenes, Maitland’s Boris accidentally leaves his mic on, of course, and we get a not-so-surprising glimpse of an openly self-proclaimed, meaner character who has sinister sex with his personal assistant and makes fun of anyone. group of people he’s ‘t part of – including us. And the audience always laughs. An hour-long look at what we essentially already know, there’s nonetheless something haunting about seeing this melting clown’s comedy-horror experienced live on stage. “You slept here while I appeared,” he says at the end, still quoting Shakespeare as we laugh, sniffle and snore into the future.
The Shakespearean theme continues in Oliver Award-winning Adam Meggido’s funny and thought-provoking film. Boris the Third. Against a backdrop of early Thatcherism, a young Boris and his ultra-privileged but not loathsome schoolmates mounted a school production of Richard III which, as their Wandsworth-based drama teacher wryly observes, is better funded than a West End production of Cats. Meggido’s deftly written screenplay has the sharp structure of a theatrical farce-turned-bedroom onstage/offstage, filled with slapstick comedy deftly delivered by the ensemble cast, but also with Brexit, 1990s pop culture references. 1980 and to the unequal social structures that exist both in the subtext of the play and still in the outside world today.
Harry Kershaw is delightfully despicable as young Boris of Meggido, a cross between a pompous and manipulative “king of the world” from school and a young Benny Hill, endlessly pursued by his deceived sloaney girlfriend Katie, his equally sister chic and an angry military man back from the Falklands who is about to bring the house down – or at least the decor. Why, exactly, do we laugh at fun courting men in a way we rarely do with women of similar inclinations? It is an unanswered question. But when Boris’ teacher refuses to ‘debate’ him – pointing out that they don’t start off as equals – it’s a relevant moment that challenges the values of opportunity in the classroom and the private education. “You can’t be the clown,” she said. “Clowns tell the truth. You’re the joke. Or maybe the villain.
In the end, Katie finds herself humiliated on stage alongside her classmates, with both the production and her dreams of being spotted by Doctor Who shattered. “We could have been good,” she says, if it wasn’t for “him.” Boris, surveying the carnage of his crown, shrugs: “They knew what kind of person I was when they gave me the role.” However, his former friends – and perhaps us in the audience, too – seem less sure now.
Boris Live at Five, Ballon Doré at the Museum, until August 28. Boris III, Court of Pleasance, until August 29
In an extremely clever, fun, and provocative idea for a show, the Silent Faces theater company is waiting for Waiting for Godot – or more precisely the estate of Samuel Beckett – to let them know of their request for a performance of Waiting for Godot. Unfortunately, Beckett, during his lifetime, refused to allow women to perform his absurdist play, created in the 1950s, as he felt it would not be “accurate” for them to play the three male characters. It’s a policy that continues to be championed by the estate today – the one that brought the three clownish characters before us onto the stage, two women and a non-binary, sitting discouraged, under a tree, much like Vladimir and Estragon, wondering what to do next.
And yet, as this continuation and, indeed, celebration of Godot’s frontier pushing back the absurd classic demonstrates, dissecting the sillier side of theater from within the sillier side of theater is not only very funny, but also how dynamic a new work – like this show – can become. I really hope people on the Beckett estate get to see it, because honestly, I can’t think of anyone else who might enjoy it more.
Relentlessly absorbing and creatively spitting out the details of their struggles to put together a play that isn’t Waiting for Godot but couldn’t quite exist without it, this wry, frustrated and dogmatically determined troupe takes us from existential reflection to a deliciously disruptive musical number asking if Madonna can change the attitudes, rules about sex and gender that now seem outdated can’t they also be reconsidered? If Beckett were alive today, would he have changed his mind? While they may not have the right to say Beckett’s exact words, nor the desire to follow his exact instructions, as the trio dance and dissect the tree, they, more than many other productions officially approved, effectively demonstrate how his spirit lives.
Pleasance Dome, until August 28
There’s a lot going on in solo performer Tamsin Hurtado Clarke’s intensely physical evocation of the shock of pregnancy and encroaching motherhood at the age of 38, including the way the spoken text folds into her movement to bring visceral life to the situation it relates. Her character’s shock at the news is tangible in the electric charge that seems to run through her body, or in the way she tests the words “I’m pregnant” over and over, perhaps dozens of times, with rapid intonation. different each time.
Occasionally, she bursts into an interpretive dance frenzy around her dance floor, and a few abrupt interruptions due to apparent morning sickness were so effective that one audience member suggested the performance be stopped. That Clarke was just performing in a bathing suit (a sensible choice, given the heat in this venue) with a fake baby bump may have added to their concern. Her character voices her inner monologue and Clarke also plays their mother and grandmother, illuminating cross-generational attitudes towards childbirth, but her well-constructed show is more effective as a mood piece. which simulates the full range of emotional impacts caused by pregnancy.
Pleasance Court, until August 29
Imbecile Muun Komming! [BeBgWunderful/YEsyes/Hi5.4sure.TruLuv;Spank Spank:SOfun_Grate_Times] **
“You look confused,” said the creature on stage – male, humanoid, white lower body, short shorts, outwardly friendly disposition. Fair commentary – and that’s just the abstruse title of the show. Gaulier grad Sam Kruger plays an alien sent to Earth in a full trash bag on the right “love rock” ship to… well, that would spoil the surprise. Kruger is lithe, gawky with grace and an appealing presence, which he needs to sustain him through the most oblique moments of his mime and comedic monologue. For all its weirdness, Fool Muun Komming! is at the heart of a love affair with the extraterrestrial with regulatory references to David Bowie.
Pleasance Court, until August 27
Megalith begins with a breakdown. Nothing works. Technical assistance is sought. After turning everything off and on again, breaking things is the only solution. More details would spoil this mysterious, destructive and cathartic show about how the basic materials of human communication are buried in the earth. A new performance by Bristol’s award-winning theater company Mechanimal, Megalith is described as a play about copper mining, but in practice it’s a deeply visual, almost wordless poem that holds its cards close to its chest.
Surprisingly good sound design turns out to be the backbone. The jaw-dropping returns are played with virtuosity, and the piece’s techno climax is truly thrilling. It becomes hypnotic and oddly relaxing to watch large chunks of flint crashing into each other, their chalky coating looking far too much like bone. And over time, Megalith’s worksite chic feels constructive rather than destructive, inviting many questions – about ecology, mining ethics, lineage from Neolithic tools to today’s digital assistants. today. But the play’s third act feels vague and unresolved, like a cave painting yet to be deciphered: a more concrete resolution would help convey Megalith’s powerful ideas.
KATIE HAWTHORNEZoo Southside, until August 28