Pros: Laughing at the Tories is definitely fun and there is some satisfaction to be gleaned from recognising real world parallels.
Cons: Obvious and prosaic, it doesn’t really reveal a lot.
Tomorrow (or last week, depending on when you’re reading this) after a seemingly endless campaign of back-baiting, mud-slinging and some rabble-rousing, the British public will cast their votes in the General Election. The race between Milliband and Cameron is getting too tight to call but Kingmaker isn’t concerned with this race, its focus is on the race for Tory Party leader, which since they’re in power and their leader is stepping down, is the race for PM.
The dominant candidate is Max Newman, former London Mayor who uses a bumbling persona to cover a well-oiled political machine – remind you of anyone? Yes, Kingmaker is a fairly obvious poke at good old BoJo and his leadership ambitions. And it’s not the first time someone has suggested his clumsiness and gaffe-prone nature is all a carefully constructed façade to make him seem more human, less politician (polar opposites in the minds of the public).
The subject is topical, not just because Boris is running for a seat so he can start on his campaign for the top job but also because playing the harmless idiot is also a favourite ploy of UKIP leader Nigel Farage. There was a definite air of excitement in the air as the audience – a mixture of reviewers, politicos and interested public – settled in to their seats in the intimate studio space. Unfortunately, it didn’t really show us anything new or revealing about politics and human nature – if the point was to show a liberal arts crowd that the Tories are a bunch of bad eggs, really, why bother?
Apart from the message, which all seemed a little obvious, the method of imparting it fell a little flat. There was far, far too much exposition, with characters explaining their actions, their history and what was going to happen, which meant everything came across as heavy-handed.
There were also some comically obvious Shakespearean asides/monologues where the lights dimmed around the character as they explained to us everything about their motives, in case we hadn’t got it from the dialogue. These sections felt much more like a rehearsal exercise where an actor explores their character rather than something that should be in a finished play.
The performances weren’t a massive problem although there was a general problem with over-acting. Laurence Dobiesz’s eager puppy act as naieve young MP Dan Regan wore thin pretty quickly. So did Joanna Bending’s Iron Lady coolness as the scheming Eleanor Hopkirk MP, although she does have some nice moments of vulnerability very near the end. Alan Cox as the slimy Max Newman MP (our Boris) has some wickedly slick facets to his performance but it is dominated by shouting, which is decidedly off-putting.
What I found most disappointing about Kingmaker is that it did nothing to fuel my Election Fever. Yes, the Tories are a loathsome Eton/Oxbridge ‘Boys’ Club’, yes BoJo is an ambitious, shady character but on the eve of one of the most interesting elections in recent history, I was looking for something else, and I didn’t find it here.
Writers: Robert Khan and Tom Salinksy
Director: Hannah Eidinow
Producers: Jason Smith, Hartshorn Hook, Spontaneity Shop
Lighting: Nicholas Holdridge
Sound: Jamie Robertson
Box Office: 020 7836 8463
Booking Link: http://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/kingmaker/
Booking Until: 23 May 2015