Theatre Review - Pandemonium

Paul Chahidi in Pandemonium [Marc Brenner]

ARMANDO Iannucci is probably best known for his BBC series The Thick of It, and Bafta-nominated film The Death of Stalin. Remarkably, this is his first piece written for the theatre.

Iannucci recasts the Boris years as a Shakespearean tragi-comedy. Pandemonium’s subtitle neatly summarises its focus: “A scornful Account of the Activities of Mr Boris Johnson and ‘Others’ during the Pandemic and its Aftermath”.

The brilliant five-strong cast, Faye Castelow, Paul Chahidi, Debra Gillett, Natasha Jayetileke and Amalia Vitale, take on multiple roles as key figures and various members of the cabinet.

Boris (Chahidi) is renamed Orbis Rex. The show begins with his Brexiteering and rise to power with a clever twist on Hamlet’s soliloquy – “To be in, or not to be in …”

We move swiftly on to the chaos at No.10 during Covid. Orbis imagines himself a hero; a self-proclaimed god and knight in shining armour who promises to overcome this foul pestilence. Even when sunk to the depths of desperation and dishonesty, Orbis manages to bounce back.

Matt Hemlock (Vitale) crawls from the slime of the bog he inhabits and grants favours in order to win friends. Riches Sooner (Jayetileke) is a tap-dancing sprite in short trousers who oozes ambition.

Later, we meet Less Trust, a witless princess who deflates at the first difficult question and Suella Bovverboy dressed as a Latin American military dictator, while Michael Go pops up at opportune moments.

Simply staged and directed with panache by Patrick Marber, Pandemonium is an 80-minute blistering satire that never lets up.

In a satisfying denouement, Orbis and his cronies are left to wallow in the hellish mire of their own creation.

Until January 13

Originally published by Westminster Extra