I have been three days at the Edinburgh Fringe and I have already witnessed two impersonations of President Donald Trump. The first was in Mark Thomson’s “Snowflake” and there is no hope of avoiding the bugger in Mea Culpa’s “Trumpus Interruptus” at Greenside on Infirmary Street. There are probably enough actors mimicking Trump at this year’s Fringe, and enough playing forlorn Syrian immigrants, to successfully stage a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo on the Meadows. Imagine thousands of Trumps waddling towards the cannon fire, as divisions of Syrian cavalry tear into their flank.
Trump as hate figure provides a whole table of comfort food for any liberal audience, which is, at the Fringe, every audience. Mea Culpa spend an hour unloading their revolver into this single fat fish in a barrel. In truth, Trump is a slippier fish than he first appears and his barrel can deflect bullets as well. The fruit is so low hanging that it becomes a trip hazard.
Alec Baldwin’s celebrated portrayal of Trump for Saturday Night Live ultimately errs in depicting the President as just a variation on Homer Simpson. In making the President so clueless, Baldwin misses his more sinister, thuggish side, the nastiness behind his backstory of no-vacancies-for-blacks and his exploitation of undocumented workers. The danger for any satirist is of being charmed by the Trump that you have created, until you are left with the worst possible outcome: a loveable Trump.
Zach Tomasovic’s Trump is a loveable Trump. He is a tragicomic Trump. He resembles a luckless schoolboy who doesn’t have the brains to get out of the trouble that he is spinning. Yes, it is sensible to want to see this Trump impeached, but we don’t want to hurt him, or to see him suffer, and, when we realise that he is unable to read, we feel sorry for him. But I haven’t come here to feel sorry for Trump.
Actually, Mea Culpa’s tactic is to show a depleted Trump, whose White House is falling apart around his ears, because it is easier to do this than it is to account for Trump in the ascendency. I cannot imagine Tomasovic’s Trump on the campaign trail, his motivations for campaigning, or the reality of his success.
In the end “Trumpus Interruptus” is not a political exercise – it is a farce, and a very jolly one. You are not meant to hang any weight on its cobweb. When Tomasovic takes to the stage unshaven, he seems to warn that he will not be assuming responsibility for a scrupulous likeness of Trump. After a while, however, his shiftiness and restlessness come to look unexpectedly authentic. His best moment is an awkward encounter with Melania, but the play will empty all of a KFC bucket of shameless puns and first-rate clowning across the stage. Nate McLeod holds up equally well as Melania, Putin, Jared Kushner and a Kellyanne Conway whose eyes cross whenever she tells lies. McLeod’s targets are apparently rationed and you are disappointed not to see how he would interpret Ivanka Trump or Sean Spicer.
So this is a diverting Trumpus but not much of an Interruptus.