Trump gets a bold Shakespearian twist in new play ‘The 47th’

The play opens with Trump retiring from Mar-a-Lago, eager to resume his role as chief troublemaker, and asks if he could pull it off – and at what cost. It’s not so much docu-fiction as a fantasia about power, democracy and populism.

The play is written in blank verse deliberately a la Bard and alludes to Shakespearean plots. At one point, Trump is like King Lear, deciding which of his children deserves to succeed him; next is Richard III, plotting to seize the crown.

It’s a technique British playwright Bartlett once used to powerful effect in ‘King Charles III’, his 2014 play which imagined a tumultuous future reign for the current heir to the British throne, Prince Charles.

“I loved how bold and daring the piece was,” said actor Bertie Carvel, who gives a compelling and likely award-winning performance as Trump. “It’s really funny and really entertaining, but it’s definitely not a comedy.”

It’s not “axe work” on Trump either, said Carvel, who played another powerful figure, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in James Graham’s 2017 play “Ink.” , he pulled off the feat of getting audiences to root for the billionaire mogul as a brave underdog.

He faces an even tougher challenge playing Trump, someone few people are neutral about. “I know, you hate me,” Carvel’s Trump half-jokes, half-teases the audience in the opening scene.

Carvel says he’s an ‘advocate’ for all the characters he’s played, which include monstrous Miss Trunchbull in London’s ‘Matilda the Musical’ and New York’s cheating husband in TV thriller ‘Doctor Foster’ and the undead guest Banquo in Joel Coen. movie “The Tragedy of Macbeth”.

“You can mount a very dignified defense as a lawyer without necessarily believing the person is innocent,” said Carvel, who is set to play British Prime Minister Tony Blair in season five of “The Crown.”

“My job is to give things a ring of truth and create a believable, legible human being.”

He said Bartlett’s script “gives Trump and Trumpism some serious backcountry. And also, I tried to make sure he had some serious emotional backcountry as well.

In real life, the 44-year-old British actor looks nothing like Trump. On stage, the resemblance is amazing. His first entrance, driving on stage in a golf cart, has the audience gasping.

“What we wanted to achieve was to be able to put a version in front of an audience where they could say, ‘Oh! That’s him!'” said Carvel, who credits costume designer Evie Gurney with carrying out the transformation. with padding, prostheses and a wig.

Lydia Wilson undergoes an equally convincing transformation into Ivanka Trump, with her perfect hair, elegant dresses and stiletto heels. In the play, Ivanka is her father’s favorite child, right-hand man, and potential rival.

Wilson, who dumped Kate Middleton in ‘King Charles III,’ said she slipped into the costume as Ivanka was transformative.

“The first dress rehearsal, I felt like I rode in a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce,” Wilson said. “I was like, ‘Oh, she’s here.’ It’s really fun to play with who or what is inside this silhouette.

Wilson, whose credits include ‘Star Trek Beyond’ and Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare film ‘All is True’, said she felt like she was having a ‘silent conversation’ with the audience each night about the strengths.

“We assume we know these people,” she said. “It’s fun to try and riff and play with that.

“It’s different every night.”

London critics praised the cast, which also includes Tamara Tunie as the resilient Harris, but differed on the play’s impact. The Daily Telegraph found a “lack of meaningful substance” beneath the surface veneer, while The Guardian opined that we are “still too close to the Trumpian moment” for any real insight.

But The Times gave ‘The 47th’ five stars, praising it for “piquantizing the liberal, metropolitan crowd of Old Vic” by showing Trump’s genius as well as his flaws.

“King Charles III” moved from the small Almeida theater in London to Broadway. Could ‘The 47th’ follow after its Old Vic run ends on May 28? Carvel, who earned a Tony Award nomination for ‘Matilda’ and won a Tony for ‘Ink’, thinks it would be “thrilling.”

“I think it would be electric to do it even closer to the center of the vortex,” he said.

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