I’m sorry to say I’m underwhelmed by Falling Sparrow’s production of Boris Rex, a satirical treatment of Boris Johnson’s political career. It’s not clear to me from the play how Boris appeals to the public, and why he is popular. His wit and his individuality don’t come across at all.
Instead, playwright Charlie Dupré presents Boris as a puppet without substance, manipulated by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove who exploit his ambition. The result is a two-dimensional Boris Johnson, lacking the layers one may expect to see in a complex protagonist.
The script is written in the style of a Shakespearean tragicomedy, with echoes of Julius Caesar and Richard III. Themes of betrayal lie at its core. The Shakespearean monologues are welcome moments of introspection and philosophical thinking - though they don't fit well with the Boris we see in interactions with other characters, where he is easily-led. The script is lyrical though, using language well throughout, with moments of verse and spoken word that are imaginative and pleasing to hear.
David Cameron’s character has a good voice, and his wife has an interesting dream about Brexit. Dupré casts himself as Jacob Rees-Mogg, a skilful manipulator, who may be the most convincing character in the play.
Overall, I struggled with the characterisation, because the actors often address the audience rather than interacting with one another; I needed more dialogue and more feeling, to allow myself to become immersed in the performance and suspend belief. Costumes and make-up are a throwback to student days at Oxford with a hint of the vampire, which seems slightly incongruous and at odds with the Shakespearean context.
The raw satire will entertain many, but for me it is a tale of untapped potential - lacking in substance and historic detail. With the wealth of material available, it feels to me like a missed opportunity to inform and educate.