I dispense with the star rating on this occasion – a decision that was more difficult than I’ve made it seem – for this production is such a ‘work in progress’ that it is quite futile to put a star rating on it. This one-man show from Simon Jay, which isn’t even entirely sure whether it’s called Donald Trump: Megadeath or Trumpageddon (I personally prefer the latter), will take the collective ideas of everyone in the audience on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Hampstead, for further development prior to public viewing at the Edinburgh Festival this summer. I therefore defer a star rating to the Edinburgh reviewers later this year.
The key question to be answered – production-wise – is this: does it work? For me, it does – there is something bizarrely theatrical about Donald Trump and his wild public performances, and equally absurd worldview. As each day passes, the possibility of President Trump (which I still think is unlikely) grows stronger, and I daresay a potential avenue of development here would be to consider a future with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister as well. “O, that way madness lies,” to quote Shakespeare’s King Lear, but here, the weirder things get, the more hilarious they are too.
Trumpageddon will not be to everyone’s liking; we are, after all, talking about an actual public figure, and for some, concocting a comedy based on the sayings and behaviour of someone who could yet prove to be quite dangerous on the world stage (whether or not he is elected) could be seen as trivialising some very important issues. Still, there’s much to enjoy in the show as it stands, where this Trump likens a well-publicised policy to reinforce the US-Mexico border to the Roman Empire’s Hadrian’s Wall (that is to say, it’s been done before, centuries ago, so it’s hardly impossible), and where a laptop fails to play a pre-recorded voiceover, and then several other items that would have added some extra atmosphere and content, it only increases the entertainment value. It is arguably a metaphor for a possible Trump presidency, where nothing will quite work out as it was originally intended to.
I am, perhaps, already reading too much into something that is, primarily, designed to be more hysterical than highbrow. There are, however, a lot of new plays and productions out there that can be quite serious and grim, and both exhausting to watch and (presumably) to perform. The more I think about it, the more I think Jaybird Productions is onto something with this little show – one of the reasons why there are so many dystopian shows is that a show depicting an idyllic world would soon be rather dull, unadventurous, and ultimately unconvincing. But here, the dystopia is also laced with so much dark humour that it simply doesn’t feel very depressing at all.
It’s not exactly Springtime for Hitler – it is, in the end, rather engaging, particularly in a question-and-answer session, in which I just about stopped myself from being a subject of my own review as the fourth wall was firmly demolished. The spontaneity from both audience and performer added some excellent opportunities for Trump-style (non) answers to pertinent questions, or otherwise an order to ‘security’ to bundle someone out of this ‘rally’.
It was a little rough and will need some topping and tailing, but there were some good ideas being propounded in this still-being-developed comedy. It only really leaves me to suggest that Simon Jay keeps an eye on what’s going on in the United States and adapts the show accordingly – on the night, and every night – to the ever-evolving presidential election campaign. I recall seeing the Hampstead Theatre production of Chariots of Fire when it transferred to the West End in the summer of 2012; one of the ensemble members made a quip about a certain Olympic victory for ‘Team GB’ that had happened that every day. It brought the house down. Topical and up-to-date is the way forward. I wish this show well.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Donald ‘the’ Trump, sits in his bunker deep under New Jersey, the America above him in ruins. Only 100 days into his presidency and the world has ended. Now with nothing but canned beef and cocaine, Trump sits in judgement of himself, listening to old campaign speeches and wondering whether he was really the best man for the job.