Trompe L’Oeil at the Other Palace
Trompe L’Oeil made a brief appearance at London’s Other Palace, marking a notable stint on the West End. Written by Henry Parkman Biggs, and directed by Blair Anderson, the play delves into Donald Trump’s presidential journey and his interactions with Russia, while also exploring a queer love story between a fervent Trump supporter and a drag queen.
The musical begins with a surreal Faustian deal between Trump (Emer Dineen) and Putin (Sarah Louise Hughes), but the show’s genre-shifting nature makes it challenging to follow. Dineen’s portrayal of Trump heavily relies on hand gestures and often sounds more like Miley Cyrus than Trump himself. However, Olivia Saunders’ mannequin-like interpretation of Ivanka Trump provides some comic relief. The standout performance comes from Louise Hughes as The Imitator, who skillfully takes on various characters with conviction.
The show’s scene transitions disrupt the overall flow, rendering it a somewhat disjointed experience. These sudden shifts between scenes not only impede the audience’s full immersion in the narrative but also undermine the production’s coherence. They engender a sense of disconnection, as if the various elements of the play are struggling to find their rhythm and synchrony. The result is a performance that lacks the seamless and absorbing quality one would anticipate in a well-crafted theatre production. These jarring scene transitions unintentionally become a central point of attention, diverting focus from the storyline and the actors’ performances, and ultimately diminishing the overall impact of the play.
Nonetheless, a significant facet of the performance unfolds within the turbulent relationship between Rip (depicted by Alex Wadham) and Demi (brought to life by Dominic Booth). Their on-stage connection goes beyond simple humour: it delves into the profound theme of personal transformation. Rip’s evolution from a staunch Trump supporter to a champion of love, seemingly distancing from his prior political stance, serves as a poignant lesson in the universality of “love is love”. Regrettably, this compelling narrative arc is somewhat overshadowed by the overtly surreal character transformations, which, although artistic in their own right, tend to divert attention from the play’s central message.
In essence, Trompe L’Oeil holds promise for a captivating musical. The music exhibits moments of sheer brilliance, and the wordplay brings to mind the lyrical finesse of Spike Milligan. Nevertheless, what prevents it from reaching its full potential is the unpolished nature of its scenes and a certain lack of coherence in its overall concept.
Images: Danny Kaan
Trompe L’Oeil is at the Other Palace from 30th September until 15th October 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.