The 47th - Old Vic

The 47th – Reviews at the Old Vic starring Bertie Carvel ★★★

Reviews are in for Mike Bartlett’s new play The 47th which has opened at the Old Vic theatre in London.

This biting new play about Donald Trump and the next US presidential election, stars Bertie Carvel as Donald Trump, Lydia Wilson as Ivanka Trump, Tamara Tunie as Kamal Harris, Simon Williams as Joe Biden and Ben Onwukwe as Barak Obama.

Written by award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett, the play is directed by the Almeida Theatre’s artistic director Rupert Goold, who reunites with Bartlett following their 2014 collaboration with King Charles III.

The 47th is set in 2024 as the US heads to the polls to elect the next, 47th President of the United States of America.

Other cast in the play include James Cooney as Charlie Takahashi, James Garnon as Ted Cruz, Richard Hansell as Steve Richetti, Oscar Lloyd as Donald Junior, Jenni Maitland as Heidi Cruz, Freddie Meredith as Eric Trump, Cherrelle Skeete as Tina Flournoy, Ami Tredrea as Rosie Takahashi, with all other parts played by the company.

The complete creative team includes set by Miriam Buether, costume by Evie Gurney, lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Tony Gayle, original music and sound score by Adam Cork, video by Ash J Woodward, movement by Lynne Page, wigs, hair and make-up by Richard Mawbey, casting by Jessica Ronane CDG, US casting by Jim Carnahan, voice by Joel Trill and dialect by Brett Tyne.

The 47th runs at the Old Vic Theatre from 29 March to 28 May 2022.

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More reviews to follow as published

Average Critics Rating

The 47th reviews


"Bertie Carvel is astoundingly good as an anarchic Donald Trump in Mike Bartlett’s audacious blank verse drama"

"Essentially, this Trump is an unstoppable spirit of anarchy, a destructive force of nature, a Lord of Misrule. He’s perhaps most obviously comparable to Shakespeare’s Richard, but Barlett lays on numerous explicit Shakespeare comparisons and pastiches, with Trump at points apeing both King Lear and Mark Antony. And it would be wrong to limit the comparisons to the classical: Heath Ledger’s unstoppable, unknowable Joker would seem like a fairly solid reference point, as Trump leads his minions in an all-out assault against democracy, their fanatical pulse embodied in Joss Carter’s bellowing, bestial Shaman."

"You have to meet ‘The 47th’ on its own terms. It does not represent a realistic, po-faced attempt to map out the next US presidential election. For some, Bartlett’s language and Carvel’s articulacy and charisma will be dignifying Trump (though if that’s a problem maybe don’t see a blank verse play about him). Others will probably think it should include a more forensic list of the criticisms of Harris, Biden and Democrats in general (both sides!). But really, it’s tremendous entertainment, that explores the decline of American democracy in an infinitely more enjoyable way than the actual decline of American democracy we must all bear witness to."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Times

"Echoes of Shakespeare as Trump makes comeback"

"It’s an entertaining but uneven pageant held together by a barnstorming performance by Bertie Carvel, who as well as sporting a gravity-defying Trumpian hairstyle has captured all his mannerisms and tics. As in real life, this anti-hero is too much of a comic figure to lift the play to the level of tragedy. It’s often closer to Spitting Image than The West Wing."

"Director Rupert Goold works hard to keep the piece aloft, but the second half starts to meander, even if the sight of The Donald in battle fatigues is worth a giggle. At the end the mood turns sinister as we realise Ivanka has her own ambitions. Bartlett has left room for a sequel but let’s hope, for America’s sake, he doesn’t need one."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Independent

"Bertie Carvel’s hypnotic Trump is a whirlwind, career-defining performance"

"Mike Bartlett’s new play, set in 2024 with Donald Trump gearing up for a second shot at the presidency, is a riff on Shakespearean tragedy with a punchy contemporary angle"

"As soon as Bertie Carvel’s Donald Trump drives his golf buggy into eyesight, there’s a sense we’re watching something remarkable. Buried under orange-stained prosthetics, Carvel is unrecognisable. Hunched and puckered lipped, he is the full embodiment of the 45th president – with rigid hand gestures, a blond-dyed quiffed hairstyle and all. More than just an impersonation, though, this is a whirlwind, career-defining performance. “I know, I know, you hate me,” Trump clacks at us. We might – but not for one second can we look away."

Anya Ryan, The Independent
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The Telegraph

"Bertie Carvel’s perfect Trump impression can’t save this superficial play"

"Mike Barlett's latest "near-future" play imagines Donald Trump re-running for president in 2024"

"You could watch Carvel having a ball as Trump for hours. Which is just as well because the great bogeyman of recent US politics hogs the limelight for much of the near-future action, set at the tail-end of Biden’s first term, in 2024."

"Tamara Tunie’s Kamala Harris has a gravitas that feels unearned. The women, inevitably, resist unabashed misogyny. Goold brings his usual sheen to proceedings, played out under an oval-ish strip of light, yet can’t hide the lack of meaningful substance beneath the theatrical polish. See it for Carvel’s tour de force, perhaps, but as Trump would attest, you can’t win ’em all."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Guardian

"Bertie Carvel is devilishly good but this Trumpian satire feels too soon"

"Mike Bartlett’s script turns US politics into Shakepearean comedy but falls oddly flat despite magnetising performances"

"Donald Trump’s inner circle has, in Mike Bartlett’s satire, turned into a Shakespearean court of a near future in which the former president is back in the game. The script, best in its granular moments of comedy, blends billionaire pomp with political chicanery, dynastic family drama and blank verse."

"There are some delightful lines in Bartlett’s script nonetheless and it is in these moments that the play sparkles: an incarcerated Trump in an orange jumpsuit gives his jailtime a PR spin by claiming it will endow him with a “cool Mandela feel” in the eyes of the people. His slanging matches and put downs of Biden, who he calls an “elderly wizard”. His eulogy of Machiavelli’s The Prince although he admits he hasn’t read it all because it was too long: “Someone summed it up, and it made sense.” And the moment when Harris tells Trump that his legacy is a farce: “You will be mocked if ever you will be remembered,” she says, and this play proves her point."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Sunday Times

"At last, a five-star Trump we can love"

"Bertie Carvel is remarkable as the former president in this outrageous, must-see play that will rankle the metropolitan elite"

"The most immediate thing about this funny, outrageous production is Bertie Carvel’s turn as Trump."

"No, the show is not perfect. So why five stars? Because it’s so refreshing. Bartlett does not merely and lazily attack Trump. He acknowledges something of his electoral genius. Trumpism appeals to people “sick of paying taxes to a stifling culture they do not believe”. In jabbing the liberal, metropolitan Old Vic crowd, this show does something to make that culture less stifling. Also, Bartlett and Goold are plainly having a lot of fun. So much modern theatre is po-faced, palsied by political correctness. Not this."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Hollywood Reporter

"Tony and Olivier Award winner Bertie Carvel plays Trump, opposite Tamara Tunie’s Kamala Harris, in Mike Bartlett’s Shakespearean take on the next U.S. presidential election, directed by Rupert Goold."

"The play is at its strongest in suggesting the continued erosion of American Democracy that a returning Trump would offer — the man simply picks up where he left off, by extending the Capitol insurrection to a nationwide scale and calling for “flames of freedom.” The presence of an unruly mob, including the QAnon Shaman (Joss Carter), is truly chilling. Bartlett then considers what effect this would have on the principled Harris, clinging to her belief in due process while under considerable pressure to play dirty herself."

Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter
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The Stage

"Bertie Carvel is magnificent"

"Mike Bartlett’s new blank verse play about the 2024 US presidential election is not always satisfying but front and centre is a stupendous turn from Bertie Carvel as Donald Trump"

"Designer Miriam Buether’s set combines Dr Strangelove’s war room with an expensively anonymous hotel lobby, onto which, at one point, a golf-cart trundles. Rupert Goold capably marshals the large cast and the very plotty plot but, at times, the play’s twisty ambition works against it. The first half establishes a lot of themes and threads that it can’t resolve in a satisfying fashion, narrative elements are terminated abruptly and moments you feel should be chilling are oddly downplayed – though Cherrelle Skeete, as nurse talking about her mother’s lonely death from Covid-19, adds a welcome emotional note to the play’s later stages. It’s Carvel who leaves the biggest impression, bestriding the production in a magnificent and grimly apposite fashion."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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The Evening Standard

"A hideously transformative turn from Bertie Carvel as Trump"

"Mike Bartlett’s blank-verse drama about Trump running for president (again) is eloquent and clever, but has surprisingly little to say"

"You can’t fault the ambition or the sheer craft of Mike Bartlett’s blank-verse drama about a Trump rerun against Kamala Harris in 2024. But despite an astonishing, hideously transformative central performance from Bertie Carvel as the tangerine narcissist, the show lands disappointingly."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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i News

"Bertie Carvel is magnificently monstrous – but this Trump satire falls flat"

"Carvel steals the show with his uncanny turn as the orange political atrocity, but this lightweight story is lacking in meat"

"Carvel’s turn is uncanny, from the corpulent bulk and tiny flapping hands to the pouty, rubbery beige lips, the avaricious, lizard-like gaze and ludicrous swirl of nicotine-yellow hair. Yet in this dystopian vision of the near future – it imagines Trump trying to get back into power in the next presidential race – where’s the meat? The plot is a grotesque soap opera, all greasy poles and dirty deals; as America descends into anarchy, a bug-eyed, rebel-yelling craziness takes hold in scenes that, like the 2021 Capitol riot, feature a cavorting, horned shaman, and wouldn’t look out of place in The Purge."

Sam Marlowe, i News
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The Financial Times

"Bertie Carvel is a jaw-droppingly good Donald Trump in The 47th at the Old Vic"

"Mike Bartlett’s bold new drama interweaves current political concerns with Shakespeare’s plays"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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" Bertie Carvel’s Transformation Into Shakespearean Trump Is Hypnotic"

"Bartlett’s audacity — plus the fact that Tunie, Wilson and especially Carvel never relinquish their grip on the audience — makes “The 47th” rarely less than entertaining."

David Benedict, Variety
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The New York Times

"Donald J. Trump won’t surrender the spotlight easily. But few could have guessed that he would find renewed life on the London stage"

"... those expecting the sort of “Saturday Night Live”-style broadside familiar from Alec Baldwin are in for a surprise. Within minutes, the audience is aware of a character, not a caricature, and one with a lot on his mind. The opening monologue depicts a vengeful figure acutely aware of how he is regarded: “I know, I know, you hate me,” this Trump remarks at the start."

"When Carvel is center stage, “The 47th” entirely grips. The problem comes with a rambling, shapeless narrative that soon loses its way."

Matt Wolf, The New York Times
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📷 Main photo: Bertie Carvel as Donald Trump in The 47th

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