Theatre Review Shipwreck, Almeida Theatre

Shipwreck at the Almeida theatre picture Marc Brenner

Shipwreck at the Almeida theatre picture Marc Brenner - Credit: Archant

Anne Washburn’s three hour probe into how theatre and the rest of the world should respond to Donald Trump is bold but unwieldy

Shipwreck at the Almeida theatre picture by Marc Brenner

Shipwreck at the Almeida theatre picture by Marc Brenner - Credit: Archant

There have been numerous references to Donald Trump in theatre, but this world premiere from leading American playwright Anne Washburn tackles the President head on.

She doesn’t just depict Trump, but also the response to him – and, in meta fashion, asks what drama should do.

Is political theatre too “direct”, or is it better than staging a Trumpian Julius Caesar, as New York’s Public Theater did (to angry protests) in 2017?

Washburn takes us back to that year, just after former FBI Director James Comey revealed that the President had demanded his “loyalty”.

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A group of liberal friends meet in an upstate New York farmhouse, and, trapped following a snowstorm, feverishly debate politics.

Some of this is brilliantly observed – like the belligerent would-be campaigner criticising her friends, though her call to action turns out to be just a series of social media posts.

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There’s also the sheer exhaustion of the news cycle, and the inevitable but incendiary revelation: “I voted for him”.

But, even if the hand-wringing impotence of these white, privileged commentators is the point, it’s challenging theatre.

Further character work would be welcome, or more of Washburn’s flamboyant Trump fantasy sequences – vividly staged by Rupert Goold.

There’s also a secondary plot about Mark, an African-American adopted by a white Christian couple.

Thanks to a riveting series of monologues by Fisayo Akinade, and a subtler approach to the issues, it’s the most impactful part of the show.

Justine Mitchell, Tara Fitzgerald, Elliot Cowan and Raquel Cassidy turn in strong performances, while Miriam Buether’s altar-meets-Arthurian round table set, eerily lit by Jack Knowles, is an effective visual for this bickering over the mouth of hell.

An unwieldy three-hour drama, but a bold response to today’s world – and uses art to explore the ultimate myth-maker.


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