When Blair had Bush and Bunga
Political mockery of vintage heritage
This article is from 2015.
Although When Blair had Bush … advertises itself as satire, its broad comedy, flash of naked breasts and light farcical plot makes it more like a 1970s' sitcom. There are recognisable portraits of Tony and Cherie Blair, a predictably dumb George W Bush and, playing into an Italian stereotype, a lecherous Berlusconi. The characters and humour are painted in broad strokes and the serious political points – the politicians are plotting their invasion of Iraq with obvious dishonesty – are swept away in the rush of comedy turns.
If some of the characters are too close to stock types, and the displays of flesh gratuitous, When Blair had Bush … does have historical antecedents, in the wild mockery of Aristophanic comedy. Like the ancient Athenian's comedies, this script is ready to attack politicians, but less concerned with political detail. Bush is a Christian maniac – his drink problem leads him to sharing an incoherent prayer session with Blair – while Blair is a hen-pecked husband, desperate to look cool in front of the idiotic Texan. The play conjures up a world governed by the weak, the dishonest and the demented.
This cynicism, however, never expands into more precise satire. Despite their antics, the politicians are vaguely sympathetic: Blair is more naïve man-child than potential war criminal. The jokes about Cherie's love of money give way to a generic humour about her shrewish nature.
At times, the caricatures of the local maids and police (who turn up to deal with a sub-plot involving a suspected murder) borders on the offensive: although the action is set in the early 2000s, with the UK and USA on the brink of bringing down Saddam Hussein, it looks back to an older time, when comedy was as likely to mock those without as much as those with power, and Benny Hill was not yet unfashionable.
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