Trump could be providing Fringe material for at least another two years, an orange-tinged contemporary bandwagon jumped on by Two Thirds Comedy with Trump’d!. In a dystopian future, a group of strangers must unite to stop Donald Trump enacting some of his dastardly plans. The trouble is, he is not up for listening, and instead sends his number two Arnold Schwarzenegger to terminate them.
For a show called Trump’d!, the President himself rarely features until the final third. This is a shame, because his onstage moments are by far the best, capturing the aloof persona and sense of righteousness seemingly possessed by the leader of the free world. His exchanges with Schwarzenegger, his Vice President here and an outspoken critic of Trump in reality, hit the mark especially well, with a warm awkwardness between the two that plays out onstage to a tirade of giggles from the audience. Ol’ Arnie almost steals all the thunder with a moment involving his sunglasses, one of the funnier and more subtle moments of the show.
These are the rare high points that are not equalled when the main characters and story arc are the focus. Trump’d! fails to pull off a convincing piece of satire. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but is so unimaginative in its approach that it falls into the trap of being unengaging and predictable. The script is basically a hodgepodge of music and movie references with typified characters performing them. The lead character’s name is not Dorothy (it’s Donna), but it might as well be, her role so blatantly mirroring that of the protagonist of The Wizard of Oz that it doesn’t grant the audience a whiff of intelligence. True originality may be impossible, but even an attempt is lacking here. It’s a badly stitched collage of things that plenty of other people have done before.
The performances are mostly over the top – you half expect one of them to fire their toy gun and a little red ‘bang’ flag to poke out of the barrel. They are caricaturing caricatures to the point where finding anything vaguely real beneath it all is impossible. These cardboard characters aren’t even all that funny. Only a handful of the jokes get a rousing reaction from the audience, many more falling by the wayside. Even the ones that do generate laughs come within the choruses of the songs, which means that they are repeated and eventually wear down on the crowd. This is especially obvious in the closing number.
Besides Trump and Schwarzenegger, the parodies are also poor. Hillary Clinton – “The Blue Witch of New Hampshire” as she is called in the play – is reduced to an unexplored shadow of the real woman who spends her only major musical number convincing the other characters to smoke marijuana with her. The typical edgy tough hero character of Brett Texas is also exactly that – typical; the kind of reluctant supervisor who of course feels compelled to look out for the naive young Donna once they hit trouble. All of the script’s effort is focused squarely on the eponymous antagonist, and there is seemingly none left for anyone else.
A more sombre scene between Donna and Brett is actually a thoughtful, well performed consideration of a future with Trump at its helm. It is more moments like this that Trump’d! desperately needs. It doesn’t have to become a full blown melodrama, but a bit more grounding would help alleviate from uninspired content and allow this show to actually seem significant amidst the ocean of anti-Trump theatre.
C Venues – C – -1 (Venue 34)
Until 27 August
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr