Recently performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, ‘Trumpageddon’ was presented at the ffresh restaurant in Wales Millennium Centre. The relaxed setting where we ate popcorn and could pop to the bar for a drink worked well as the audience played such a key part in the executing of the show.
It enjoyed a sell-out premiere in 2016 when Trump was only a candidate, but he now returns as an invincible leader of the free world.
Trump has risen to become arguably one of the most powerful men on the planet. He has achieved this by using his own personal wealth and a displaying a complete disregard for all the usual norms of politics and the political process. He has managed to alienate large sections of his own party – but still became President of the United States. Although this cabaret featured irony and dark humour – which cut very close to the bone at times to make valid points – the central tenet is that the world is believed to be at the point of biggest danger from a world war for decades. This can be attributed to one man, Donald Trump.
As a reviewer that is very hard to please with comedy, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Rarely does the medium spur me to laugh out loud, but at times in the show the funny moments were side-splitting, and the rest of the audience seemed to respond in the same way. Nearly 2 million people signed a petition against a Trump state visit to the UK in 2016, and therefore this topic was both timely and controversial, and provided a fruitful springboard for a scathing attack on the questionable decisions he has made in his position of power so far.
The performance opened with a reminder of the voting patterns that shocked the world as Donald Trump became US President. We were then introduced to the man himself, clothed in baggy trousers and shirt, a red tie, an orange-painted face and an unnatural head of blonde hair. Simon Jay quickly convinced us with his scarily close portrayal of the world leader, and when I closed my eyes I could actually believe I was listening to Trump as the accent and voice was mimicked perfectly. Perhaps his poise and facial expressions could have been further analysed, but overall I was very much reminded of his mannerism in real life.
The main themes associated with Trump’s presidency was explored, and his inappropriate attitude towards women was both hilarious and uncomfortable. Throughout the performance we were constantly torn between the desire to laugh and being unnerved by the truth element to his actions on stage. I believe that a satirical piece was ideal in bringing these to the fore instead of preaching and politicizing his views. Combining laughter with a platform for debate worked well in terms of highlighting the disturbing consequences of his policy-making and its effect worldwide. Jay’s performance showed Trump’s eccentricity at its utmost, and laying himself on the floor like a child was hysterical.
The hour-long cabaret also featured numerous video clips of high-profile people in the US reacting to his presidency. Also, the audience could fire questions at him in a kind of political rally. Others were cajoled on stage with a mix of vague promises and open lewdness, invited to share decisions on policy.
What the humour succeeded in doing, through laughter and entertainment, was remind ourselves of who he is, what he stands for, and what he has done – and yet is still president. The inclusion of his quotes, some incredible in their bare-faced lies and insults, emphasised these facts. The energetic performance from one man, with an assistant providing subtle assists, was spell-binding and did not let up for one minute. The number of people queuing for selfies at the end testified to the reaction of the near sell-out crowd. One of the highlights was when he held a world shaped plastic ball in his hand, and the accompanied song ‘he has the whole world in his hands’ was chilling.
This absurdist satire was created by Simon Jay, who managed to pitch the right balance between simple humour and a thought-provoking consideration of pressing issues in the world today. Daniel Clarkson should be congratulated for directing this seamless piece and for incorporating the audience to such a degree. The best comedy is often rooted in reality, and this performance successfully coupled humour with a sobering reality of an uncertain future that we are now forced to face.
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