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A CurtainUp London Review

"Trump is a political neophyte." — Allie
Cast in Shipwrecked
(Photo: Marc Brenner)
Most of the theatrical references to Donald Trump in theatre have been of the comic variety, satirising his hair and his autocratic tendencies. Anne Washburn brings us a discursive play set in a 1776 farmhouse in upstate New York which is being renovated by Jools (Raquel Cassidy) and her husband.

It is just after May 2017 when the ex-head of the FBI, James Comey has exposed the memo when Trump asked him to drop his investigation into Michael Flynn, and its implication that the President could have been obstructing justice. These events led to further investigation about the role Russia had played in the 2016 presidential election.

Unseasonal snow strands the hosts and their guests in the farmhouse with little to do other than to discuss politics. Hippies Teresa (Tara Fitzgerald) and Jim (Eliot Cowan) have just come from their relative Megan giving birth and asking for it to be Trump free. Allie (Justine Mitchell) who is driven by reading and responding on social media says she would love a Trump free 24 hours.

While the visitors to the farmhouse are questioning how Trump got elected, in Britain the question is all about Brexit. A side plot to this play is in the 1980s and has the Kenyan adopted son Mark (Fisayo Akinade), adopted by two Christian white farmers, presumed to have lived in the farmhouse in the past. He explains how he doesn't fit into the African American stereotype of descent from ex-slaves as he talks about his parents' racism. This is a powerful performance from Fisayo Akinade for which he will be remembered as he explains what he will say to his own son about the past. Mark probably deserves a whole play of his own about interracial adoption.

Lawyer Yusuf (Khalid Abdalla) stirs things up when he tells the group that he voted for Trump, "to stir things up". Despite recent history being ignored Washburn's play seems to be commenting on the inability of the liberal elite to make any difference in the face of a president who blatantly breaks the rules.

It is interesting that this play is first put on in London rather than America where I suspect the liberal audience would relate more easily to the arguments. There are two scenes where Trump (Elliot Cowan) is onstage— one where he enters into a presidential competition against the younger Bush. . the other a fantasy where he is gold painted and clad as a Roman general, this might be the way in which Trump himself might like to be portrayed. The parallel with the Public Theater's Central Park 2017 production of Julius Caesar works partially.

Running at just over three hours, Washburn's play isn't without interest although it is proving difficult for me to draw together its many themes. Set on Miriam Buether's huge wheel of a round table, which people sit round and stand on, it is a show full of talk and discussion.

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Written by Anne Washburn
Directed by Rupert Goold
Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Fisaye Akinade, Raquel Cassidy, Risteard Cooper, Elliot Cowan, Tara Fitzgerald, Adam James, Justine Mitchell
Set Design: Miriam Buether
Costume Design: Fly Davis
Composer: Max Perryment
Sound Design: Paul Arditti
Lighting Design: Jack Knowles
Video: Luke Halls
Running time: Three hours 10 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
Booking to 30th March 2019
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 20th February 2019 performance at The Almeida, Almeida Street, London N1 1TA (Tube: Angel)
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