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Theatre review: Lenny Henry looms large but pop at Donald Trump lacks punch


The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Donmar Warehouse

IS DONALD Trump the new Adolf Hitler? According to this new version of Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 allegory, the answer is a resounding ‘Yup!’.

Lenny Henry stars as gangster Arturo Ui, who — like America’s president — rises to power despite lacking any experience of politics.

Each step of Ui’s climb to the top can be matched to Hitler’s, and the script has been amended by Bruce Norris to put Mr Trump in the frame. Ui pledges a wall to keep out drug pushers and rapists, while a banner appears with the slogan Make This Country Great Again.

Henry is very good. His Ui is primitive to the point of being primeval. Whether he’s brooding darkly or ripping the leg off a chair to bludgeon someone to death, the next murder is never far away.

Brecht’s play probably works best without additions. When, in 2002, Al Pacino played Ui in New York, defenders of George W Bush complained that the president’s words had been inserted into Ui’s speeches. They hadn’t.

But the problem here is not so much that Norris leads us by the nose to his target. It’s that despite the powerful Henry, Simon Evans’s production only raises wry smiles at moments when the play should send shivers down the spine.