Boris World King, Trafalgar Studos, theatre review: ‘Boris Johnson through the ages’

David Benson in Boris World King

David Benson in Boris World King - Credit: Archant

Over several decades as a reviewer, almost every aspect of theatre craft has advanced; other than wigs.

The syrup atop David Benson is a true stinker.

It not only looks more Michael Fabricant than Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, but inhibits the peformer from exploiting that fiddling thing that the MP for Uxbridge does with his hair when under pressure; he’s probably afraid it will fall off.

Happily, this two-hander, in the intimate subterranean space of Trafalgar 2 scores well in all other departments, especially with Tom Crawshaw’s hilarious and perceptive script. It opens with Simon Callow’s ponderous intoning of a line from Seneca, supported by a noisy bit from Carmina Burana then we get the inexorable rise of one of the funniest, most populist and arguably most devious man in contemporary politics

We follow the dissembling Boris from prep-school to Eton, via Oxford (Classics) onto his first job as the kind of journalist who is prepared to make news not simply report it. Amid his elevation to Spectator editor, MP for Henley, London Mayor, and Brexit campaigner, his progress is peppered with mea culpas and cripeses, close shaves and scrapes.

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References are made to wiff-waff, Boris Bikes, Have I Got News For You and all the cultural impedimenta that have made him the lovable buffoon of the popular press.

But as his PA Helen (a perfect Alice McCarthy) tries time and again to tether the great Boris dirigible to earth, a picture of a brutal, self centred, ruthless and unpleasant man emerges.

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He threatens, manipulates, cajoles, lies and is generally a bad egg to all around him: he steals ideas, blames others and does all he can to further Project Boris.

The title refers to his earliest ambition – to be “World King” and it finishes with a rather knockabout preview of how he might achieve it.

Benson is terrifically funny, with spot on timing and boundless energy.

An electric, topical and instructive 80 minutes.

Boris World King is at Trafalgar Studios.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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