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The Madness of George Dubya

Justin Butcher
Arts Theatre
(2002)

The statistics suggest that over half of the UK population is against the War in Iraq. This is a useful statistic for writer/director Justin Butcher and his producers, as it means that the people who will really hate this show are a minority.

The Madness of George Dubya is good old-fashioned satire with a real 1960s feel. It takes the current political crisis and imposes it onto the structure of Doctor Strangelove with help from Tom Lehrer and Catch 22.

The play is patchy but this is not surprising as its enterprising playwright wrote the original draft in three days during mid-January. The intention is that it will be kept topical by regular script changes.

The first and last visions of Thomas Arnold as the eponymous anti-hero are telling. He is first seen as a little boy in pyjamas with a giant teddy bear and superman shirt who is most concerned about the War on Tourism. By the end this little boy following in his daddy's footsteps has graduated to a strait jacket. His vain chum Tony Blear is equally vacuous and cares for nothing but image. Nicholas Burns provides a good imitation, even if he is about 15 years too young

Along the way, the plot of the mad, renegade US General Kipper, played suitably twitchily by Richard Leaf, who sends his men off with nuclear bombs, scares us all. It is still an all too believable scenario, even if Peter Sellers is no longer with us.

The action is interspersed with generally light and funny songs, perhaps the best from an immigrant who has made it into the seats of power, courtesy of the privatisation of government cleaning services, Yasmina the Cleaner, played by the spunky Lindsay Ellis.

Butcher is merciless in his attack on the Governments of both Britain and America and their policies of globalisation. There is one set-piece speech delivered by Rupert Mason as Wafeeq Dizeez. This silences the audience as suddenly, amidst the light humour and songs, the litany of Western intervention in Iraq and other Arab states brings some rather uncomfortable balance into the debate about the rights and wrongs of the war.

While The Madness of George Dubya is uneven and can occasionally be dull, it does contain some hilarious moments and political insights. It may well run as long as the war that has spawned it. Therefore, I trust that Mr Butcher will forgive me for hoping that it doesn't challenge The Mousetrap's longevity.

The other two plays in the Trilogy are A Weapons Inspector Calls and Guantanamo Baywatch.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher