Unsung (3 stars)

This article is from 2018


A reminder that politicians are not good people

Valentijn Dhaenens' 2012 Bigmouth introduced Edinburgh audiences to a performer capable of holding attention through his voice along, as he revisited some of the most famous speeches of history and reflected on the power of pure rhetoric: Unsung relies heavily on that same charisma and Dhaenens is predictably superb as the scheming, probably right-wing sex-pest politician. Presenting the protagonist's public preaching, preparation and personal conversations, Unsung is a spectacular display that has at least the humility to dissect the myth of the great white male leader. However, the obvious message that political leaders lack either domestic or political integrity is hardly surprising, pandering to what has now become the basic attitude towards any political figure.

There are touches of brilliance: the first oration, a word salad of buzz-words that even the politician himself realises is dishonest and empty; the transition of moods when he speaks in rapid succession to his wife and young daughter; his sneering, conniving conversation with a political rival and his rants about the opposition and the media. Less impressive are the moments of physical theatre, when Dhaenens starts humping a plant while leaving a message for his presumed lover. Once he sends a dick-pic to her, of course, the nature of his downfall is inevitable.

Dhaenens is a magnetic presence, but this does not excuse the lack of imagination in the narrative, or the simplicity of the characterisation. The politician is so familiar – he has shades of Blair, Johnson, Gove, Trump… it's just predictable and mansplains an idea that is so current, reiteration is a mere pandering to popular cynicism.

Summerhall, run ended


  • 3 stars

SKaGeN/KVS, Big in Belgium, Richard Jordan Productions, TRP, Summerhall The makers of BigMouth return with a thrilling, relevant new show. Delving deeply into the politician’s life and exposing those juicy backstage scenes we all look for, Valentijn Dhaenens’ performance unravels the DNA of the politician (including…