Donald Trump is an enigma, and rich material for a musical. There have been many attempts to stage his personality, affects, etc in drama, film and musical (Drumpf: the Musical springs to mind), all throughout and post his presidency to capitalise on the wealth of material his sheer presence has catapulted our way. Honestly, at a certain point, how much more can be milked from the cheeto’d cheater across the pond? In case you were wondering, Trump L’oeil is a play on Trompe L’oeil (translation: “deceives the eye”). The show is billed as a blend of circus, cabaret and queer art, and inspired by surrealist art such as Escher’s stairwell. In short, the defiance of logic, which I think most would agree is Trump in a nutshell.
The first deception: It’s a show with music but not a musical- more a collection of songs cycled together to try to create meaning. It is a surrealist piece of art.
The second deception: Henry Parkman Biggs has tried to weave a layered narrative together, but there’s almost too much chaos to see the wood from the trees. If you asked me whose story it is, I couldn’t tell you. At the start, a character informs us that we are entering a surreal alternate dimension, but the show gets too caught up in its own enigma. Even for a chaotic show, you need something or someone an audience can hold on to, to guide them through.
The third deception: It’s a weird structure. I didn’t welcome the large book sections, but neither did I welcome the songs. The songs themselves are stand-alone cabaret style, sometimes for characters that appear once, are gone in a flash and serve no purpose furthering the story. The only earwig was an earwig for all the wrong reasons. This is a show with music, and a show with music where the programme has to explain the lyrics to decode the hidden meaning in the artist’s work, in case the audience didn’t “get it”. In fact, the traverse staging of the show meant craning your neck side to side to see said lyrics and live decoding projected, while all the choreographed action took place 180 degrees the other way. If you feel the need to explain and justify the exact lyrics in the programme, that should tell you something’s off.
No doubt, the cast is talented, all of them. Sarah Louise Hughes is a definite actor to look out for. The production is funny and witty. It’s a well put-together fringy show and is an entertaining watch. I just didn’t know what was happening half the time, and just saying “it’s surreal” is a pretentious cop out.
- Directed by Oli Savage
- Book, Music & Lyrics by Henry Parkman Biggs, Music by Preston Jones
- Choreography by Blair Anderson
- Cast includes: Vivek Sharma, Tish Weinman, Michael Mather, Sarah Louise Hughes, Curtis Medley, Charlotte Barnes, Kyle Copeland, Charlotte Jones, Alex Linscer, Verity Power
- Upstairs at the Gatehouse
- Until 2nd October
- 7.30PM start, 2 hrs 25 min inc 20 min interval