British Audiences Laugh at
Play Mocking Bush
By Andrew Cawthorne
LONDON (Reuters) - British
theater-goers are flocking to a new farce that mocks President Bush) as a pajama-wearing buffoon cuddling a teddy bear while
his crazed military chiefs order nuclear strikes on Iraq.
"The Madness of George Dubya"
-- which mercilessly satirizes British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as Bush -- has proved such a success
at a fringe theater in London that it is moving to a larger venue next week for an extended run.
"As war comes closer, the
mood among audiences has changed," actor Nicholas Burns, who plays Blair, said after a performance this week. "The audience
is actually laughing more, but the tension behind their laughs has grown. People are scared."
The play, whose title picks
up on the Texan pronunciation of Bush's middle initial, is the only overtly anti-war play written in Britain during the Iraq
It comes, however, against
a backdrop of increasing disquiet among UK intellectuals and artists about London's support for Washington's hawkish position
toward Saddam. Many have been writing poems and open letters or attending anti-war events.
Director Justin Butcher wrote
"The Madness" in three days after Christmas -- then rehearsed it in six -- in a fit of pique against the American establishment
following a brush with some U.S. security agents on a trip to Romania.
The agents were in Bucharest
preparing for an imminent Bush visit and interrogated Butcher and a friend in a hotel after overhearing a conversation between
them that they said they were "not comfortable with," the director said.
"That was a key influence
in my feeling that in the arts scene we were in need of a wakeup call about the influence of American imperialism in the world,"
Butcher told Reuters after a full house had again cheered his play to the rafters.
"This is not a racist, anti-American
thing. It's a satirical attack on what the U.S. and British governments are doing."
As well as echoing in its
title a 1994 film, "The Madness of King George," about Britain's 18th century King George III, Butcher's satire re-works plot
elements from Stanley Kubrick's 1964 classic "Dr. Strangelove."
"WAR ON TOURISM?"
Throughout the play, Bush
-- with a cowboy hat and Superman T-shirt as well as his pajamas -- wanders around uttering an idiot's commentary from the
bunker (or "bunkbed" as he calls it) where his "special guys" have put him for safekeeping.
"Often times I get confused
and forget stuff," he says, as he rails against the risk from "Islamic tourist states."
"Tourists are brown folks
who get on planes and come to America and do bad things, so we're having a war on tourism," he says in one of various risque
wisecracks in the play.
Enlivened by slapstick song
and dances, the play tracks the consequences of a psychotic, eye-bulging American general's decision to launch preemptive
nuclear strikes on Iraq.
Trashing the United Nations
as a "bunch of pinko, degenerate subversives" and Bush and Blair as a "pair of goddamn degenerates," General Kipper
puts the world on the brink of war before an al Qaeda operative disguised as a cleaner produces the secret code to recall
U.S. fighter pilots.
Amid the humor, a dignified
speech by the Iraqi ambassador to a panicked Blair is the seminal political moment of the play. Audience laughter fell to
a hush on a recent night as the actor offered a withering critique of Western hypocrisy toward Iraq.
While criticizing President
Saddam Hussein as a "butcher" -- "We hate him, but we hate you more," he tells the U.S. and American officials
-- he also hails the Iraqi leader as an "Arab Robin Hood, the only one to give Uncle Sam the finger."
Blair is depicted as a dithering,
image-conscious puppet of the Americans, who cries out for his spin doctor Alastair Campbell -- "Alastair, help me" -- in
moments of need.
Details of the play are on
the Internet at www.themadnessofgeorgedubya.org.