Writer Tom Crawshaw must have been rubbing his hands in glee after the surprise referendum result earlier this year, which saw Boris Johnson’s stock rise incredibly (for good or ill) and all but guaranteed his show Boris: World King would enjoy a repeat of its sell-out success at last year’s Fringe. As subject matter, Johnson provides an almost endless font of comedic material – in fact, the man himself would probably be far better suited to stand-up than representing our nation across the world.
The show predictably lampoons the current Foreign Secretary, gorging itself on much of the low-hanging fruit Johnson has left strewn about the place during his shambolic but unbelievably successful career. For those unfamiliar with his back story, the show tries to run through the life of the bumbling politician from his schooldays at Eton to an imagined future where, as the title suggests, he’s succeeded in conquering the world with his clumsy charm and ridiculous hair.
David Benson stars as the man himself and has clearly studied him extensively; he has the stuttering pronunciation and set-piece mannerisms of Johnson down to a tee. Joanna Bending provides support in a variety of roles, though most notably as his put-upon aide Helen, and both actors acquit themselves admirably. The audience interaction elements are a clever commentary on what a successful Fringe show so often demands, but sometimes feel a little laboured and unnecessary.
There are some genuinely excellent jokes in the show, including a brave quip about Scottish independence and a delightful play upon the name of our new Prime Minister. Despite these highlights, the writing all too often relies upon the easy trick of ridiculing Johnson as a bumbling buffoon. There are only so many laughs to be gleaned from making fun of a man who has spent his entire career making fun of himself, and by the end Boris’ continual cock-ups become a little repetitive and dull.
What’s more, the constant jumping back and forth of the story’s timeline and its attempt to introduce too many meta moments make it a little bewildering. With telephones going off on set and backstage, Boris playing himself through all stages of his life and some sort of deity narrating and dictating over the PA system, keeping track of the action can be a tiresome and disorientating endeavour. Anyone who loves or hates Johnson will probably be amused by the production, but don’t expect your attention to be rapt or your sides to be splitting throughout.