Satire loves to expose the hang-ups and narcissistic preoccupations of real life, frequently throwing unsettling truths at the audience; making Fringe theatre the perfect place for experimental dark humour that hurts as often as it tickles.
The sad and unpleasant realities of caring for the elderly at home are the subject of Dog Ends running at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. Originally one of the BBC’s Play For Today series, it has been adapted and updated by Richard Harris for its premiere at the Tabard. What begins as an Ayckbourne-esque peek through the curtains of a suburban home, turns unexpectedly dark and close to the knuckle – only to open up into a surreal satirical comedy about how we, and the government of the near future, attempt to handle old age.
Familiar faces include Nick Wilton (Eastenders) and Jeffrey Holland (Hi-de-Hi!) who last worked together on stage at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Two Into One. Nick plays George, who is struggling with the steady demise of his father (and his dog). The degradation of both of them and George’s own fatigue, have made Nick think about what lies ahead for us all. ‘Preparing for this play,’ admitted Nick, ‘has taken me to some rather dark places. The reality of getting old changed from being something imagined to being something rehearsed and it’s not a pretty picture.’
Fortunately for us, Richard Harris (writer of Outside Edge), has twisted these challenging and often tragic circumstances into something marvellously witty as well.
22 March to 15 April
2 Bath Road
t: 020 8995 6035
I first saw Force of Trump on a hot day last summer in Canary Wharf. At the time the Brexit debate was in full swing and the small audience yelped, laughed and purred with every gag and innuendo. With so much political tension in the air it was a great relief for everyone to be laughing at politics. I don’t think many of us thought ‘The Donald’ would ever actually really win. Who’s laughing now?
Well ahead of so many satirists the young writer, Sami Ibrahim (24), had got a handle on the absurd and divisive nature of Trump. The lines he’d put into the President’s mouth were a precursor for the Alec Baldwin take on him that has become so huge on Saturday Night Live, only Sami’s script has a good dose of paranoia too. When I saw it again at the Old Sorting Office Theatre in Barnes in mid October (just a few weeks before the US Election) I spoke with Sami after the production. He explained that he was originally motivated to write the piece after Trump announced his intention to ban Muslims from America. ‘With a name like Ibrahim,’ he said, ‘I immediately felt offended and excluded, the play was an instinctive response.’
Donald Trump is stranded in Air Force One, the Presidential aircraft, on the runway at Heathrow – unable to enter the United Kingdom safely. In this version of reality created by Sami, Trump is the unwelcome visitor because the recent torture of a British muslim soldier by the Americans has just come to light. A year ago the idea was absurd, but this year it looks increasingly worth a bet. It’s fantastic to see young writers and performers fighting for their place on the fringe of London’s theatre-land.
Watch out for this play if it re-surfaces, otherwise keep a look out for subsequent creations by Sami Ibrahim and any of the players; Chris Born who played Trump, Phoebe Vigor who played multiple characters including Vlad Putin (currently beginning rehearsals in the touring co-production by National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic of Jane Eyre), and Julia Kass.