Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • THE MADNESS OF GEORGE DUBYA • Pleasance Theatre • 2003

logoroguesJustin Butcher is on a roll. His play Scaramouche Jones went on a UK tour in 2002 starring Pete Postlethwaite, with a world tour hoped for this year. His updating of the Hippolytus/Phaedra legend, Breaking Strain, premièred at Theatro Technis last October where it enjoyed a sell-out run, and his recent play on radio The Man on the Pillar was voted BBC Radio Pick of the Day in The Guardian, The Times and the Radio Times. Butcher’s latest is a response to the growing threat of war. The Madness of George Dubya: Strangelove Revisited, written in three days and rehearsed in six, has recently been engendering laughter, cheers and applause from London audiences.

Take Dr Strangelove, The Madness of George III, and several Tom Lehrer songs, wrap it around war on Iraq and you have The Madness of George Dubya. There is the mad American general (Richard Leaf) in charge of a US air base in Britain, his British sidekick, Group Captain Windbreak (Andy Havill), two airborne American pilots (Jonah Russell and Jamie Bower) waiting and waiting for the order to attack or return, and assorted British and American officials. Dubya (Thomas Arnold) takes centre stage, closeted in a bunker – for safekeeping, you understand – dressed in pyjamas and clutching to his bosom an enormous teddy bear. His counterpart, played with admirable economy by Nicholas Burns, is ‘Tony Blear’. Cherie has taught Tony how to breathe in times of crisis and every so often the character turns away from the furore to compose himself, and our laughter increases with every breath. This is not an ‘impression’ such as Rory Bremner’s: Burns provides just enough and no more of the tics and the head turns to show, interestingly, more of a man than we ever get to see from the real Prime Minister.

Satire is a rare commodity on stage at present, unless you count Bremner’s recent appearance in the West End along with Johns Bird and Fortune, and it is refreshing to see this instant reaction, undoubtedly updated as the days pass, to the mess engulfing the world. The play first opened at Theatro Technis before transferring to the Pleasance on 11th February. After a shaky start with low energy levels and lack of projection during the first two scenes the night I saw it, the piece picks up considerably at the entrance of Lindsay Ellis as ‘Yasmina the Cleaner – a very nice girl’, sung with gusto by Ellis and company. Yasmina is so nice that she actually runs the local terrorist cell, simply waiting for the opportunity to blow herself to kingdom come. She high kicks her way around the stage and up onto the desks, opening her overalls to reveal the arsenal encircling her hips.

As in Doctor Strangelove, the mad General Kipper – for whom war is the ultimate buzz – orders an attack on primary Iraqi targets in advance of any unanimous decision. This brings our two hapless, disbelieving pilots to the fore as they struggle for confirmation by trying to decode the order with a code book previously ripped to shreds by one of the pilots whose stomach has been somewhat troublesome of late. Windbreak, a typically ineffectual British officer (a straight, Rattigan-like performance from Andy Havill that could slot neatly into Flare Path and is here the funnier for it) has to deal with the fall-out, and when the general – the only one to know the code for halting the attack – shoots himself dead in a sealed room, we have to wonder whether time is going to run out before Windbreak is able to pass the news on to Downing Street.

Although, ultimately, the situation is ‘resolved’ (it would be churlish to reveal how), and although it is clear that Butcher’s aim is to show the absurdity of such circumstances and the reasons not to go to war, we are confronted by our past dealings with Iraq – not just by the fact that we sold arms to Saddam but other highly questionable decisions from our history. This goes a little way to explain things from an Iraqi’s perspective. It gives you pause for thought, if nothing else.

Fast-moving, occasionally confusing, The Madness of George Dubya is a show that can pick you up from your despair about the world by making you laugh, confirm or, perhaps, alter your opinions a shade, and is a must. Sadly, the run ends at the Pleasance this evening although there is talk of a possible transfer to the Arts Theatre. If the powers-that-be have any sense, they will ensure its transfer.

Sarah Vernon © 2003

Originally published on R&V 23-02-03


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ace News Desk

This site has been designed to provide reports together with news events as they happen when they happen across the world

Dave Plummer Saxophonist

Wedding & Events Saxophonist - Leicestershire and Hampshire


Books, Reviews and bookish thoughts

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Mallory James

Writer - Author - Historian

Act Professional

A How-To Guide for Actors from Someone Who Has No Idea What She's Doing

Iris Theatre

Supporting the next generation of professional theatre practitioners


The site for 'Madcap Mabel' - Mabel Normand


The site for and by adults with ADHD

Scandalous Women

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The Naptime Author

Anne Clare explores the world of writing, one stolen minute at a time.


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Woman the fuck up

Hear me roar. Writer, mother, actress, maker of beautiful things, witch. Not taking any more shit and neither should you.


Dedicated to Women Pilots of the Solent


illustration, colour, fashion + lifestyle blog UK


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day


Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College


Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....


Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork

Cooking on a Bootstrap

The #1 budget recipe website

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

%d bloggers like this: