Project Dictator

Julian Spooner and Matt Wells
Rhum + Clay
Pleasance Courtyard

Project Dictator

Martin would like to present his important play, a play about a man (himself) who wants to fix all the problems (himself) and Jeremy is there to help. Of course, because Martin wrote the play (about himself) and is also the lead actor (cast by himself), he is in charge and Jeremy… well, it doesn’t matter what Jeremy thinks, for now…

What Rhum + Clay Directors Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells accomplish over the course of what follows is incredible. A devised performance that is as hilarious as it is heart-breaking, as deeply intimate as it is universal. Project Dictator is a breakneck guide to totalitarianism, taking in tin-pot military coups, the vapid platitudes of the modern electoral campaign, the rise of populism and the debasement of the human spirit—it is also very funny!

But the real masterstroke is that we, the audience, are complicit every step of the way: we encourage Martin; we effectively vote for a coup; we clap along as two clowns are forced to go through the humiliation of the same tired routines and we applaud when we are told.

The fact that the work was created in collaboration with 13 international artists working under authoritarian regimes should be enough to make this a poignant, unsettling experience (which of course it is). However, as we recognise situations and characters that are also plainly visible in contemporary Western democracies like ours, we see how terrifyingly easy it is for fascism to take hold.

Project Dictator is an urgent cry against apathy—a warning from history and a plea for humanity in the face of far-right conservatism.

It is also very, very funny indeed.

Reviewer: Tony Trigwell-Jones