Friday, May 31, 2019

Mayday! Tragi-comedy peeks into the tormented mind of a Brexiting premier (Accidental Theatre until Saturday 1 June)

Mayday! opens with a medley of film clips that establishes audience sympathy with resigning Prime Minister Theresa May, Rosemary Jenkinson’s script slips into the premier’s office in Number 10 to witness a politician in considerable turmoil.

Jo Donnelly plays the exhausted and emotional leader with a pronounced accent, trademark kitten heels, stroking her leather armchair and displaying a whole catalogue of expressive eyebrows, scowls, grimaces and frowns.

This is a fantastical and quite sweary May who rants about “sweaty-bollocks Boris, bouncing around in his boxers”, hallucinates about opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn (who appears on stage in cardboard cut-out form), and talks into a phone handset which like her career has worked its way loose.

Interstitial video clips and red lighting up the hellish ante while Donnelly balances a stiff drink with her ever-present copy of the Withdrawal Agreement, lashing out with word and fist as she paces up and down her study. For local audiences, there’s a particularly pleasing phone interruption from a serial misspeaking Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and an anthem to Arlene Foster which accrues giggles.

Jenkinson’s own voice and frustrations cut through the biting script which has been constantly updated during rehearsals to adapt to the shifting political landscape. “Comedy makes you laugh; satire makes you laugh and think” she told me while previewing the show a fortnight ago.

Mayday! is a refreshing tragi-comedy that allows the pain of Brexit – no matter which side of the debate you sit on – to be parked and the focus to rest on the politician who delayed the assent of Boris Johnson or Michael Gove to the Iron Lady’s throne that has so recently filled by Theresa the Appeaser.

Donnelly and director Richard Lavery create a larger-than-life character that is awkward and vulnerable as well as distracted and maddened. We’re reminded that the so-called ‘Maybot’ is human, coping with the death of her parents, childlessness, diabetes … as well as backstabbing party colleagues. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for the distressed figure ... even as we roar with laughter as the PM’s vessel begins to sink.

The last performance of Mayday! is at 8pm on Saturday 1 June in Accidental Theatre in Shaftesbury Square.

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