Guest Blog: Director Dugald Bruce-Lockhart On THE LAST TEMPTATION OF BORIS JOHNSON
In the spring of last year, I was sitting in the offices of GHP productions awaiting my audition for The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, lamenting how my casting bracket had changed.
What happened to Henry V? Valmont? Captain Hammond in Foyle's War?
Still, I donned the glasses, affected a jutting lower-lip pout, and a month later, was delighted to find myself in the rehearsal room in Harrow Road, excitedly awaiting the read-through.
Of course, Jonathan Maitland's wonderful new play was a huge, sell-out success. The Park Theatre actually sold more tickets than the theatre housed. It was triumph - and I was fiercely proud to have been part of it. Never have I been in a play that was so current and cutting-edge that the final script only materialised in the last week of rehearsal - and even then, new lines were still going in on a weekly basis during the run itself.
Audience opinion was unanimous: it was a rip-roaring romp of a hit. And a hell of a lot of fun to perform. In fact, the play was such a hit, that the offer of a UK Tour was in the offing for 2020.
Having spent the best part of 10 years on the road as an actor - and then associate director - with Edward Hall's Propeller, I decided I had to stay London-based to be with my family.
So, I set to tweaking the final draft of my novel, The Lizard (being published this May - brazen plug, I know, but my literary agent would kill me if I didn't), and waited for the phone call that would inform me which Tory MP was next on the list: David Cameron - done. Michael Gove - tick. Theresa May?
The call finally came through - from GHP Productions, in fact. But it was for an entirely different role altogether.
It transpired that the wonderful Lotte Wakeham (who had directed the original production) was unavailable to take the helm again, owing to prior commitments... So, would I like to direct the new version of the play for a UK Tour?
Reunited in the rehearsal room with the prodigious talents of Will Barton as Boris, and Tim Wallers as Tony Blair, Huw Edwards and Evgeny Lebedev, I also had the pleasure of working with the equally brilliant new line-up: Emma Davies (who plays Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Vine and Leila); Claire Lichie (Marina Wheeler and Caitlin) and Bill Champion (Michael Gove and Winston Churchill).
A fresh team, for a fresh new play.
Because, in the first production, Boris never attained PM; now we all know that he finally made it. To quote that 80s classic film: "The Future is not what it used to be". The entire angle and premise for the second half of the piece has shifted.
And in doing so, the play moves from the arena of biopic satire into the epic. This is an out-and-out darkly comic tale of ruthless ambition and betrayal - of a tireless lust for power.
The text has been re-edited; the design concept renewed; the cast configuration changed (in that there is one less actor this time and more doubling - even more creative opportunities); and the whole play undergone a turbocharged revamp, resulting in a protagonist who is even more bold, brash, and disarming.
Finally, having been an actor in the first production, any doubts about weirdness in the room were dispelled on day one. Status is given, not wielded; and the cast - old and new - accepted me without hesitation. We are a strong team, an ensemble ethos firmly present in the room. And it has been nothing but a pleasure.
So, it's all aboard the Boris train once again; except, this time I get to play the driver.
A new casting bracket indeed.
One I'll find hard to let go.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith