Review: Trump’d

Cameron Wallis 5 May 2016

With a compelling premise – Donald Trump building the Great Border Wall of Mexico in the fourth term of his presidency – Trump’d has the potential to be good entertainment. However, rather disappointingly, the production as a whole is thoroughly underwhelming. Though it ranges between players, the acting is generally poor, the singing worse, and the dancing really quite bad. Nonetheless, there are occasional amusing moments, as well as a couple of roles that particularly shine through the chaos of this musical.

The singing in Trump’d is sometimes in tune – though at times, this is excruciatingly not the case – and there are a couple of particularly powerful voices.  Amber Reeves Pigott plays the long-forgotten Hilary Clinton, who seems to have turned into something of a gap-year hipster singing round a campfire; her poorly re-worded rendition of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ is delivered particularly well.

One of the plays more novel ideas is ‘Twisis’ – a sort of ISIS 2.0 – and the duo forming it, Steve and Yana, played by Ruiari Bride and Esther Raffell, exhibit quite strong voices in their amusing rendition of a re-worded version of ‘What I’ve Been Looking For’ (from High School Musical). However, the parody of ‘One Day More’ (from Les Miserables) is really quite hideous – though the re-phrasing to ‘three weeks more’ produces a few titters in the audience.

Olivia Gillman, playing Donna la de Trump, nails her southern accent, but the character she plays feels a bit unsubstantial: and is a shamelessly ripped off Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Meanwhile Brett Texas, performed by Stanley Thomas, feels a little underplayed – all of his emotions seemingly bottled up and the whole character feeling just a bit half-hearted, although his delivery of a line about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘flawless acting’ is really quite funny.

Dan Allum-Gruselle is the star of the show with his dry performance of Arnie, now Trump’s vice-president. The staged re-working of that familiar scene from Of Mice and Men is actually quite touching – or, at least, as touching as a play as satirical as this one can be – and I for one felt quite shocked at how attached I was to this character. Singing with our title character, who is played by a bewigged Matt Gurtler, in A Little Fall of Rain (ironically, again from Les Miserables – two musicals more disparate would be hard to find), we are almost moved – that is if we forget Allum-Gruselle’s outrageous German accent.

Overall though, the play is quite disappointing. Some of the ideas in the show are pretty good, but many of these fail to be delivered all that well. A little creative staging would not have gone amiss, as well as more rehearsals, some tweaking of the script, and clearer directing. It is perhaps a shame that the cast and crew did not have longer to prepare for Trump’d as it might have been drastically improved.