dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson review at Park Theatre, London – ‘unfocused and unsubtle comedy’

Will Barton in The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson at Park Theatre, London. Photo: Pamela Raith
by -

In 2016, as the Tory party grappled with David Cameron’s decision to hold a Brexit referendum, Boris Johnson invited Michael Gove to dinner. Their conversation triggered a whirlwind of betrayals, broken promises, and power grabs that left the party, and the country, divided.

The story has the makings of a compelling satire, but author Jonathan Maitland opts to tell it as a knockabout comedy, contrasting true events with an imagined future campaign to revivify a flagging political career – the Last Temptation of the title. Here, Maitland riffs on Johnson’s love of Latin and propensity for affairs, rather than meaningfully examining the flawed figure beneath the clownish persona.

Will Barton does a consummate impression of Johnson, tactically mussing his hair before interviews, capturing the broken rhythms of his blustery speechifying. Davina Moon is strong as QC Marina Wheeler, tackling the politicking with far more dispassionate adroitness than the bumbling men around her.

Meanwhile, Spitting Image co-creator Steve Nallon reprises his familiar Margaret Thatcher impression, nailing her tones of trembling self-righteousness, roaring about sovereignty and – embarrassingly – dancing a Hokey Cokey with Winston Churchill.

Director Lotte Wakeham stages it all with satisfactory energy, her cast circling each other continually, all quips and false smiles. Towards the end, as Johnson flip-flops in pursuit of power, the rear wall of Louie Whitemore’s functional, minimal set crashes down around him as in the infamous Buster Keaton stunt. It’s a suitable closing image for this creaky portrait of a cunning buffoon with a knack for survival.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Unfocused and unsubtle comedy tells a nevertheless timely story of reckless ambition
^