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Theatre review: Shipwreck

How did
it happen?
Tara Fitzgerald
and liberal
pals discuss
Trump’s rise
to power



Almeida Theatre, London ★★★★✩

AMERICAN playwright Anne Washburn once wrote a future-set, much under-rated play in which Homer, Bart and the rest of The Simpsons were the pinnacle of culture — like Shakespeare or God.

The improbable subject of this one is Trump. It’s set about a year and a half ago when many still couldn’t believe he’d won, and features Game of Thrones queen Tara Fitzgerald as one of six friends who gather for a housewarming at a gentrified former farm in snowy upstate New York.

They are all liberal Trump-haters and the chat is about what happened, and how the hell he won. Meanwhile, we hear from Mark (Fisayo Akinade), the adopted African-American son of white farmer Lawrence who voted for Trump even though he is nothing like the redneck stereotype liberals imagine as Trump voters.

If all this sounds more relevant to the US than it does to us, it’s amazing just how well the play relates to our own Brexit complex and divided nation. It could stand a cut, such as the made-up scene between president George W. Bush and Trump (whose voice is superbly impersonated by Elliot Cowan) when he was a property developer.

But the equally fanciful scene which imagines the much-reported meeting between former FBI chief James Comey and Trump has a biblical power. It’s spawned by a joke among the friends, wondering if Trump is the anti-Christ. Against all this, Mark dissects America’s running sore of racial politics and also puts in the dock well-intentioned liberalism, which failed to act in time.

True, the play directed with uncharacteristic restraint by Rupert Goold, is mostly three hours of talk. But it is a thrillingly articulate, gripping autopsy on how the old political order died. And also the moral vacuum in the man who murdered it.