Kingmaker – Above the Arts Theatre
A bumbling Tory toff MP, a former Mayor of London, is scheming and plotting his way to the leadership of the party, and the ultimate prize, PM. Sound familiar? Well, this is the play that has had audiences asking themselves the same question.
Lovable rogue MP, Max Newman, raucously portrayed by Alan Cox, is summoned to a secret, late night, ‘meeting of minds’ in Westminster. Inside the disused office, far from the media circus that closely follows his exotic exploits, Max’s dream of becoming Prime Minister is about to be seriously challenged. Will the clowning MP give in to the cunning wits of his former friend and now parliamentary colleague, Eleanor Hopkirk MP (Joanna Bending), or will his burning ambition for the top job scupper his rival?
Joanna Bending, as Eleanor Hopkirk, is a credible Lady Macbeth, grittily plotting the downfall of Max within the shadowy recesses of Westminster. Emotionally tortured by a secret from the past, Eleanor is out for revenge, and Max is in her sights. What possible reason could she have for attempting to commit this regicide before Max’s leadership coronation?
Caught up between the flamboyant outbursts of the ambitious Max and the posturing Eleanor is Dan Regan MP, played by Laurence Dobiesz. Dan has neither the wit of Max nor the cunning of Eleanor, and consequently becomes the pawn in their struggle for power. Laurence plays Dan with vigour and a sense of innocence between the two warring factions.
The small cast is perfectly formed and gives convincing performances throughout. Alan Cox in particular, embraces the parodical role of Max with care, and introduces us to a rare glimpse of the unbridled ambition and hunger for power that lies beneath the public veneer of charm and affability.
Superbly directed, by the award winning Hannah Eidinow, this sharply satirical play, from Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, has undoubtedly lampooned the real-life Max Newman, who shall remain nameless. And, has given audiences a glimpse into a (perhaps, imagined) world of power struggles, personal vendettas and political backstabbing.
Set in an office in a less salubrious corner of the mother of parliaments, there are moments of shock, intrigue and buffoonery, guaranteed to delight any Londoner or anyone with a passing acquaintance of British politics.
Reviewed by Lee Knight
Photo: Jeremy Abrahams