The Madness of George Dubya
or Dr Strangelove goes to Iraq
Theatro Technis, London http://freespace.virgin.net/theatro.technis/home.html [Theatro Technis, homepage] http://freespace.virgin.net/theatro.technis/dubya.html [Theatro Technis, "Dubya"]
Satire is all but dead on the London stage, so this show by Justin
Butcher deserves the warmest of welcomes. Even if it is largely a topical update
of Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, it had a packed house at this north London fringe
theatre cheering it to the echo.
Butcher's basic idea is very simple: to apply the premise behind Terry
Southern's Strangelove script to a war with Iraq. So we have the crazed head of
a US air base in Britain, who regards UN weapons inspectors as "pinko,
degenerate subversives", launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against
While George Dubya cowers in his bunker clutching his teddy bear, panic
ensues in Downing Street. But as the dithering PM finally authorises troops to
break into the American base, the US military relish the prospect of all-out
In a great line from the film a gung-ho general, confronted by the idea
of 20 million nuclear victims, claims: "I don't deny we'll get our hair
mussed a little." You could argue that there are all kind of differences
between the cold war confrontation envisaged by Kubrick and the threatened war
But what Butcher captures well is the insanity of a situation where, by
making a military strike against terror, we actually increase its likelihood.
He also goes well beyond his cinematic prototype by giving the Iraqi
ambassador an impassioned speech that charts our dubious relations with his
country from the installation of a puppet regime under King Faisal to our supply
of arms for the war with Iran.
It may underplay Saddam's cruelties but it makes its political point. The
success of the show, however, lies in its creation of a nightmare fantasy that
has a kernel of truth: that sections of the US military establishment have long
been itching for a war with Iraq.
But Butcher's tactic is to push the situation to the limits of absurdity.
Thus the privatised staff at the US air base includes a terrorist tea lady,
dashingly played by Lindsey Ellis, who ultimately holds the world leaders to
And, as the world is about to go up in flames, a British general politely
asks the PM if he has had any offers on his Bristol flats.
Butcher's production, climaxing in Tom Lehrer's (*) We'll All Go Together, has a
surprising jauntiness; and, in a large cast, Richard Leaf as the crazed general
obsessed by bodily fluids, Andrew Havill as an ineffectual group captain, and
Nicholas Burns as the vacillating PM stand out.
Even if Butcher's basic narrative is borrowed it shows that satire can
still be an effective weapon in a time of crisis.
· Until February 8. Box office: 020-7387 6617
All Go Together When We go”: Song
#11 on Tom Lehrer’s CD “An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer”