The People Vs Donald Trump
The London Theatre, New Cross
From 19 September 2017 to 24 September 2017
Review by Keith Mckenna
It is not difficult to imagine Donald Trump committing a crime, especially if that crime gave him money and power.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation probably has legions of officers already tediously pouring over material that could send him to gaol for a very long time. Except, nobody really expects that to happen. The evidence will get lost, or it will be ignored or if all else fails then Trump has let it be known he will give himself a pardon.
But just suppose a trial did take place. Mark Webb’s satire The People Vs Donald Trump does just that.
It is a show in two distinct parts. About thirty minutes of short scenes to remind us of Trump’s more headline grabbing moments of controversy are followed by his courtroom prosecution.
With the exception of a revelation about Trump’s secret child from a liaison in Antigua, it sticks close to Trump’s known antics.
The production has assembled a fine cast who do justice to the material but that material has two weaknesses.
This Trump (Matt Shelton) is tonally one note rude, belligerent, and loud. He is not stupid unlike many other recent depictions but neither is he convincingly Trump.
The image of an angry Trump shouting might work for a single sketch but a play needs something more rounded and developed to get our attention.
The satire is thoughtful and will have audiences nodding in agreement but lacks bite. Few people laughed the evening I attended.
The show begins with Melania Trump (Kristina Garrow) angrily watching the Access Hollywood tapes of Trump boasting about his sexual assaults on women.
He quickly placates her, but as she leaves the room he says, quoting Shakespeare’s Richard 3, “was ever woman in this humour won? I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.”
The second half trial parades many of the same characters through a court where they are questioned for the prosecution by Max Lopert (Mark Webb).
It emerges for instance that, despite being an advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump (Lucy Williams) has numerous foreign business connections including, it is alleged, a Chinese factory producing shoes for her which employs child labour and pays its workers a mere one dollar an hour.
Pressed to say what subject she advises the President on, she replies, “economics”.
The show is gently entertaining and ends on an upbeat note.
Trump before the court arrogantly admits to his crimes, but accuses us all of complicity and reminds us that there are many more like him.
The attorney responds by referencing Chaplin’s final speech from the film The Great Dictator, which calls for us to fight for a democratic world of tolerance and freedom.