The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson
Park Theatre, London ★★✩✩✩
NOT many politicians embody two paradoxical realities the way Boris Johnson does. He is both the Conservative’s crown prince, believed by many, most of all himself, as destined to lead them to Jerusalem — and politics’ philandering court jester, who seems to make things up as he goes along.
The best thing you can say of Jonathan Maitland’s limp satire of Boris’ relationship with Brexit is that it gives both versions of the man ample space, if never enough rope.
It begins in February 2016, on the infamous night Boris had supper with the Goves and newspaper proprietor Evgeny Lebedev. Boris, agonising over Remain or Leave, is visited over Welsh lamb by the ghosts of Churchill and Thatcher (Spitting Image’s Steve Nallon, who else?) — and, oddly, Tony Blair — who each make their case. Intoxicated by the vision of himself as sovereignty’s defender, he makes a decision. He also, it’s hinted, thinks courting Leavers might give him a better shot at being party leader.
The second half then takes place in 2029, with Britain gone to ruin and Boris contemplating his comeback on a re-entry to Europe ticket.
Boris’s slapdash air of entitlement is low-hanging fruit, yet there is still plenty to enjoy in Will Barton’s impersonation — the bullish vocal cadences and blustery, hollow speeches; the absence of belief in anything but himself; the trouser leg tucked artfully into the sock. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is all sanctimonious, jutting lower lip as Gove; Arabella Weir deliciously viperish as his wife.
But the jokes are lame, the spectacle unedifying and the insight thin on the ground. Mainly you just come away thinking: ‘Crikey, might we really still be dealing with Boris in ten years’ time?’