Chaos in Covid
Member of the public “You killed my mother”
Matt Hancock. “But I was in lurrve...”
The good news is that PANDEMONIUM is sleek, smart, pacy, and very funny. The not-so-good news for the viewer is that it’s sold out for the short Soho Theatre run.
Writer Armando Iannucci’s conceit is that Covid and the Boris Johnson premiership combine to turn Britain into Hell (place of all the demons) with Johnson himself as both blathering blustering buffoon and over-reaching Satan. Director Patrick Marber and the brilliant Pandemonium Players bring this nightmare and its Demons to life.
Apart from Boris “There were no parties” Johnson himself, (Paul Chahidi and a blonde wig which deserves its own credit) along the way we meet sadly plausible versions of Liz Truss, exorcised when asked if she’s costed anything, a tearful Dido Harding, a reliably oleaginous Michael Gove, and many others still with us. Particularly memorable is a toilet-dwelling Matt Hancock who, when a member of the public shouts “You killed my Mother! ” replies in a voice dripping with self-pity “But I was in lurrve..”
The Company also dances and sings to great effect and the script is studded with gems: “We were like two anchovies in a heron’s gullet“. Perhaps a certain degree of sophistication is required to fully enjoy a spoof which alludes to Milton and Shakespeare and is delivered in blank verse. But the sustained verve of the action and its joyful contempt for its main target should carry along all but his greatest admirers.
If there is a problem it might be that the Show creates such a super-farce hilarity that we may overlook the tragedy on which it is based. These monsters may be risking Hell. But isn’t Hell something of a hollow metaphor for most of us these days?
However, the fast moving and sharply pointed Show does make an interesting counterpoint to the current Covid hearings where the main protagonists very slowly reveal not very much at all. Except that they are very sorry if other people feel sorry.
(A defence is sometimes made that This was something new that took us by surprise. But I recall a neighbour commenting on the paperwork required to enter Greece and how she expected the same on returning to London. But no, passengers just went their way unrecorded…)
Written by Armando Iannucci
Directed by Patrick Marber
Director: Patrick Marber
Designer: Anisha Fields
Lighting Designer: Jackie Shemesh
Composer and Sound Designer: Adam Cork
Choreographer: Emily Jane Boyle
Running Time: One Hour 20 minutes without an interval
Booking to 13th January 2024
The Soho Theatre
21 Dean Street
London W1D 3NE
Phone: 020 7478 0100
Website: Soho Theatre
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Reviewed by Francis Beckett
at the Soho Theatre
on 12th December 2023