REVIEW: The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson @ Devonshire Park

Brian Butler March 11, 2020

If you’re a Tory or Brexiteer or both, you may want to look away now.

Jonathan Maitland has written a coruscating analysis of Tory Brexit policy and it’s an absolute 5 star hoot.

It starts  with a famous 2016 Islington tete a tete over nibbles and wine at the Johnson’s home, with the other guests including Michael Gove, his journalist wife Sarah Vine and Russian oligarch and Eve Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev, and leads us through Boris’s in-out dilemna, through his failed leadership challenge, May’s defeat and to the referendum to leave Europe.

It assumes we know a lot but it’s amazingly loyal to actual worlds said at the time. The dark and bitter comedy comes from the asides , the meetings we don’t know about and the terrible in-fighting which tore Government and party apart.

Before curtain up the music pounding out towards us is AC/DC’s Highway to Hell – appropriate in more than one sense as Gove points out later as they are the archetypal outsiders – Australians who don’t feel the need for European ties.

And when it looks like this is just a slightly satirical re-telling of our recent past, Maitland has tricks up his sleeve – he reincarnates 3 former Prime Ministers – Churchill,  Thatcher and Blair to coax and cajole Boris to their way of thinking – be it for or against EU membership.

Thatcher at her hectoring best makes her first appearance behind the bottom section of a double oven, while Blair bounces annoyingly smiling from a cupboard – it’s the stuff of farce.

And all the while Maitland is busy dissecting Boris in the most cruel way imaginable , portraying him as a calculating, scheming power-mad individual – doing it all for himself and not for Party or country.

Act 2 takes us forward to 2029. Sir Boris as he now is, still an MP – “ just” as he says, is writing histories and memoirs and being lined up to be the next  presenter of The Apprentice.

When PM Dominic Raab falters, there’s another chance of a leadership contest and Boris is up for it. Gove now turned Anglican priest complete with hair shirt pledges yet again to back Boris but will he really in the end?

Leading the cast of 5, Will Barton is stunningly accurate as Boris, plump, dishevelled by choice, bumbling, disloyal and spiteful, it’s an uncanny impersonation.

Bill Champion is an unctuous Gove doubling as a bulldog Winston ; Emma Davies never better than as the handbagging Maggie; Claire Lichie playing doggedly  both Johnson wife and mistress with not many laugh lines, and finally Tim Wallers a greasy Lebedev, overconfident Blair, and self-satisfied news anchor Huw Edwards.

It would be churlish to reveal the outcome , except to say that when it comes, it is accompanied by a truly terrifying and apparently highly dangerous scenic tour de force that takes our breath  away.

The Last Temptation plays at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre until Saturday 14 March.

For more info or to book tickets see their website here