September 13, 2016
With the US Presidential Election race seemingly everywhere right now and with less than sixty days until it all comes to a conclusion, we popped along to a fringe theatre in Islington to check out this political satire that was recently a darling of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Read on to find out why it isn’t hard to see why.
There’s something polarising about Donald Trump. We all know it but a large number of the US populace don’t seem to. Indeed, as the wonderfully talented Simon Jay takes to the stage as the multi-billionaire, former reality star and yes, actual Presidential candidate, you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get. The show advertises itself as a special evening with Donald, presented by the 'great man' as if he’s just waltzed into London due to a malfunctioning GPS when on the campaign trail, and that is exactly what we get.
Helped by poor Roxy, a showgirl whom Trump appears to regard as little more than a slave, the Presidential candidate launches into a biography of himself, about just how brilliant it is to be in the UK and how *gasp* he is going to be the next President of the United States because at least he is actually breathing. Topical and borderline offensive, but this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. Jay would be doing a disservice to the show if he didn’t go ‘Full Trump’and it's served him well so far with glowing reviews from Edinburgh and even coverage from The Guardian and Al Jazeera to name but two.
With only a few scripted set-pieces – momentary flashbacks to Trump’s childhood and a quick look at paintings by his grandchildren – the vast majority of Trumpageddon is either part-improvised through audience interaction or fully improvised when being asked questions by the audience. There’s something fascinating going on here; a fringe piece of theatre done on a budget in the backroom of a pub rarely attracts the kind of people that happened to be in our audience. It is surprising to hear that there is a moderately sized American contingent amongst us, with two lawyers and a magistrate in attendance as well! This is a show that appears to bridge the divide between the perhaps more expected student crowd with that of high earning professionals. That may be a moot point but one that we feel is worth noting as it means the audience questions range from the silly right through to the deadly serious.
And Jay answers them with ease. The true strength of Trumpageddon at the King’s Head Theatre is his remarkable improvisational skills. His off-the-cuff responses to virtually any shout out often had the crowd in fits of laughter. There are numerous jibes at Hillary Clinton’s health and although a few didn’t appear to enjoy the performance, the vast majority loved the ride. Considering the news of Clinton’s pneumonia was only revealed on Sunday night, it’s astonishing quite how many of the one-liners were to do with her illness.
A show like this only works if the audience are willing to interact with the performer and cleverly there are moments where people are forced into either asking questions or getting involved. Joyce was brought on stage to play golf to decide on Presidential policy (the fact she was rather fortuitously a student originally from China only added to the humour), whilst others were called upon to help with a lesson on ‘Trumpenomics’.
If one wants to be negative, there are a couple of jokes that don’t land as well as others but you won’t mind because Jay has already moved on and hit you with another gag you weren’t expecting. Many may be offended by some of the subjects Trump talks about here and yes, a few people are ‘picked on’. But that’s all part of the cleverness of the show, especially come the final speech from Simon Jay – now as himself – who notes that the vast majority of his answers to questions and what he’s saying are genuinely soundbites that Donald Trump has said. Instantly the mood in the room changes. With just 56 days to go until the election, the reality of what might happen sinks in. Satire is hilarious and we’ve all had a good time but surely there is no way this man will become the next President? The serious note on which the show ends is nicely done and we strongly urge you to go. This is a brilliant piece of work and it’s a shame that in less than two months, Jay’s character will – for better or worse – be brought to a close.
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