Review: The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, at Park Theatre
Will Barton brings more than bumbling buffoonery to his portrayal of Tory MP in play that examines the wannabe leader’s ambition and breathtaking sense of entitlement
16 May, 2019 — By Catherine Usher
Will Barton in The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson. Photo: Pamela Raith
EVEN if the idea terrifies you, Will Barton certainly brings Boris Johnson to life in this tale of how the Tory MP decided to come out on the side of the Leave campaign in 2016 and the implications of his decision.
As Johnson, Barton brings more than bumbling buffoonery to his portrayal. As well as being convincing in both his demeanour and voice, he captures the wannabe leader’s ambition and breathtaking sense of entitlement. The moment when he deliberately untucks his shirt and messes up his hair prior to a TV interview demonstrates playwright Jonathan Maitland’s acute understanding of Johnson’s duplicitous tendencies.
Although Barton can’t be faulted, the story arc itself won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill appear to Johnson like the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol – except they frequently intrude on his conscience at the same time when he’s entertaining guests.
As Blair, Tim Wallers expertly portrays the former PM’s pronounced sincerity and Steve Nallon does an entertaining, Spitting Image-style caricature of Thatcher, but Arabella Weir’s Churchill is a weak link.
It’s an ambitious undertaking to base the second half of the play on where Boris and the likes of Michael Gove might be in 2029, but ultimately it only emphasises that the first half, set during a dinner party Johnson held in early 2016 before he backed Brexit, is much more entertaining.
Yes, the dialogue is imagined, but there’s a deliciously authentic feel to Act I, which evaporates when reality makes way for the fantastical (somewhat alarming) second act.
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