As the ever-present murmurings about Boris Johnson’s intentions continue, Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky imagine a world where a bumbling Mayor of London is a shoe-in for PM once a vacancy appears at the top of the Tory Party. Boris seamlessly becomes outrageous MP Maximilian Augustus Newman in Kingmaker, a convoluted but entertaining new political satire.
With all the rage of a Grecian fury, Eleanor Hopkirk MP comes to the very male battlefield of British politics well armed. After carefully manipulating an inside election for the new leader of the Conservatives, she brings the past crashing down on Max Newman with a scandalous story from their Oxford days. She calls naive junior MP Dan Regan the Kingmaker but really he’s just the lead pawn in her game of vengeance. Unfortunately for Eleanor, Max is playing a game of his own and his is a lot more fun.
Alan Cox’s perfectly observed Boris-alike is not the only performance that hits the mark – all three actors are seriously impressive. Joanna Bending skewers a whole chamber worth of MPs on a single accusing finger with her portrait of smooth operator Eleanor Hopkirk, while Laurence Dobiesz’s Dan struggles to keep up with all the backstabbing and blind ambition like the rest of us.
The plot is unlikely and very difficult to follow but concentration is rewarded with snappy asides from Cox as he plays up to the his role with obvious glee. Max Newman couldn’t care less what he’s accused of because he knows the voters will forgive him, just like they did when he was caught fiddling the books or sleeping with other people’s wives. He just laughs it off, chuckling at his own affable stupidity along with everyone else, from Joe Public to the PM.
Kingmaker‘s complexities are mostly lost to its strong performances but the message is still loud and clear. As the Laughing Policeman plays us out there’s a warning: our politicians may be a laughing stock but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down against the biggest joke of them all.
Kingmaker is at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.