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Boris – World King

Dave Benson in Boris – World King at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Dave Benson in Boris – World King at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

With a plummy roar and a blur of sweaty bumbling, London mayor Boris crashes his namesake bike into the set and awkwardly dismounts. Not content with holding down roughly a thousand jobs and book deals, he’s now decided to bring a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, one more step towards his childhood ambition of taking the throne as ‘World King’. It’s a typically meta-theatrical conceit from fringe stalwart Tom Crawshaw, who uses this appealing setup for a series of slapstick calamities, and a chance to peek behind the mask of amiable jollity Johnson projects.

 David Benson does a superb impersonation of Johnson, nailing his wild, stuttering mannerisms, and Crawshaw’s script cleverly allows BJ to hang himself with his own desperate need to please. What is initially charming pales, dies and rots with repetition, and his insistent sexual predation on young female audience members is genuinely creepy.

Boris – World King sees its subject as a using, conniving ghoul, but the bleak message is that however trapped Johnson becomes in his own sticky personal life and professional clumsiness, he will bounce back. Crawshaw’s play has almost too much fun to properly ram this message home, but with the rise of Johnson still very much ongoing, it remains a smart and unsettling piece.

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Buffoonery conceals the dark heart of the London mayor in Tom Crawshaw’s mischievous and unsettling Boris-bio