THEATRE REVIEW: The 47th starring Bertie Carvel at the Old Vic

By Aline Mahrud

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHEN?: Saturday 2 April, opens 9 April, booking to Saturday 28 May 2022

RUNTIME: 157 minutes (including 15-minute interval)

‘Chameleon’ is the word best used to describe actor Bertie Carvel, the winner of 2 Oliviers and a Tony for roles including Rupert Murdoch in Ink.

  • Read on for reasons including how The 47th shares its Shakespearean style with King Charles III

Here he plays Donald Trump and the 1st image we are presented with is a golf flag rising like an erect penis from below the stage and the former US President driving a buggy on his way to make a final putt.

We’re imagining padding and prosthetics were used but Carvel’s physical resemblance to Trump is so accurate that we have to blink to make sure that it isn’t the 45th US President joining us onstage in this preview this evening.

Not only that but Carvel’s impersonation of the man is spot on: the awkward walk, the mannerisms, the apparent attempts to belittle others, particularly women, in his orbit.

Author Mike Bartlett arguably had his greatest success with King Charles III, a look at the royal family and what might happen should Charles become king, which used blank verse to give a Shakespearean feel to the material as is done here.

The setting is present day and Trump summons his 3 children to announce that only 1 can be his successor like a modern day King Lear.

He’s contemplating running for US President again and spooks Joe Biden at a meeting so much that the 46th is sleepwalking and telling aides while doing so that he should no longer run against Trump.

Tamara Tunie’s troubled yet principled Kamala Harris becomes the titular 47th and the bulk of the play details the insurrection inspired by the storming of the Capitol building in January 2021 as Trump tries to retake the presidency.

There’s no faulting the ambition of Bartlett’s writing and the elevation of daughter Ivanka, played with a seductive mix of intelligence and thwarted ambition by Lydia Wilson, provides an interesting counterpoint to the protagonist.

However, we’re reminded of Aaron Sorkin’s twist on To Kill A Mockingbird which hones on its protagonist’s character trait as trying to find the good in everyone and revealing it to be a flaw when discussing The 47th.

Despite Carvel’s incredible piece of acting, the script rarely offers us the opportunity to walk in Trump’s shoes and to understand what makes him tick.

Instead, we’re presented with a polemic about why those who voted for him were wrong without ever really attempting in any depth to get under the surface about why they did – a criticism opponents of Trump often make of his aggressive rhetoric.

  • Pictures by Marc Brenner courtesy Old Vic Tickets
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