Has the title caught your eye? It caught mine when I was browsing through Time Out last week looking for a play I could go to with my colleague. We were in London with a group of students and tried to cram as much culture into our few evenings as possible; the students went to ‘happy hours‘ in cocktail bars and discos and we to West End theatres. ‘Each to their own’ as you say. Political satire, that’s just my thing I thought, but would I understand it as a foreigner? I asked the man at the ticket counter who looked at me surprised and said, “But your English is fantastic!” Good man, I liked him on the spot! I told him the language wasn’t the problem, I feared the allusions would elude me and that I wouldn’t know who the people were they made fun of. He reassured me, however, saying there would only be the usual suspects, Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld, Powell and the like. There were some other foreign spectators from non-English speaking countries by the look of them, some British and many American ones to be recognised by their accent and their size. What is the play about? The commanding general of a US air base in Great Britain, who regards UN weapons inspectors as ’pinko, degenerate subversives’ has gone berserk and ordered his airborne division, each armed with countless megatons of nuclear missiles, to attack their primary targets in Iraq without Presidential permission. The President is holed up in a bunker, where he sits in his pyjamas, cuddling a teddy bear and ranting about the state of the world. “We’re having a war on tourism”, we hear and “It’s those brown folk who do bad things.” He’s the President of erhmm, well, the President and he’s going to do the right thing and unleash his weapons of mass distraction on Iraqistan, or is it Pakirajasthan? And he’s going to catch the man his daddy couldn’t, Saddama bin
Laden. He also promises the French to bring them democracy, but warns them not to use weapons of mass seduction . . . Panic in Downing Street, PM Blear (no typo) is more than a little worried, wild and loud discussions with all the people involved seem to lead nowhere as the only person who knows the recall code is Yasmina, the cleana (!), who is a member of Al-Q’aida and does her job of office cleaning with a bra full of dynamite and a girdle of dynamite sticks round her waist under her coat. Mayhem galore! The characters of the play speak, sing, dance and overact from beginning to end, The Times sees the play as a ‘crossbread of political protest and slapstick satire . . . all comic strip and caricature . . . It makes for sprightly agit-prop.” Whatever it is, it’s refreshingly Politically Incorrect. As you can imagine it’s a laugh out loud play, but when in the second act the Iraqi ambassador, Wafiq Dizeez, delivers a verbal attack against the world leaders about the human rights abuse heaped on Arab countries by Western governments from the days when a puppet regime under King Faisal was established, you can hear the proverbial pin drop. As a critic said, “It may underplay Saddam’s cruelties, but it makes a political point.” I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the American spectators learnt something here. Could I follow? Yes, I could, but I had some problems with the language contrary to what I’d feared. Especially Yasmina, the cleana, was difficult to understand, she’s an East End gutter snipe like Eliza Doolittle, I’m sure you’ll enjoy her. With a different accent, the actress is also Condoleeza Rice! I was convinced the actors were a mixed British-American lot and was very surprised indeed when I read in the programme that they’re all British. The actor playing George Dubya imitates the Pres perfectly, yet he hasn’t ever bee
n to the US of A. One actor I could hardly understand: the older bomber pilot sitting in a cockpit fixed to the upper part of the back of the stage, he gurgles in the most repulsive Southern American drawl. Unfortunately we didn’t talk to American spectators to find out if they thought the accents genuine, I certainly did. I’ve read some reviews on the net, but nowhere are these two pilots mentioned. What do they do all the time sitting in the cockpit of one of the bombers carrying nuclear missiles? They read porn mags and inspect their survival kit in which they find lipsticks and silk stockings among other things. The older one outs himself and tells the younger one that he’s fancied him for some time already, the younger one responds out of boredom and curiosity. This part of the play makes it very British to me. Have you ever noticed that British humour nearly always covers the subject homosexuality? I don’t think you have because you can’t compare if you don’t know foreign languages. Take homosexual hints out of Monty Python and you’ll get a much slimmer version! I can’t speak for all continental European states, but I can tell you that German and Italian political satire doesn’t cover this subject in the same way, it’s not awkward or embarrassing, it’s just not interesting. The author and director Justin Butcher threw the play together in a few days and it’s kept up to date with daily re-writes he ‘churns out at a furious pace‘. It’s largely a topical update of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove (the complete title is The Madness of George Dubya or ‘Strangelove Revisited‘), but as I don’t know Kubrick’s work, I can’t compare and don’t care. The play started out in a fringe theatre and was then taken to the West End, it has been so successful that it has been prolonged several times, but it will definit
ely close on 23rd August 2003, so if you feel like seeing it, do it now! We enjoyed it immensely and you’ll enjoy it even more. Arts Theatre Great Newport St London WC1E 7HF Nearest Tube: Leicester Square Performance Times: Monday to Thursday at 7.30 pm Friday at 6.00 and 9.00 pm Saturday at 4.00 and 7.30 pm Performance length 1hr and 45 mins approx 24,50 GBP / concessions 15 GBP ________________________ I’m going to ask for the category for the play (who wants to read a review on the theatre in general?), when it’s included (one day) I’ll ask Katie to move my op, until then enjoy it here!