Dinner with Saddam - Menier Chocolate Factory

I booked tickets to see Dinner with Saddam, a new play by Anthony Horowitz, and featuring Stephen Berkoff as Saddam. We rushed to get to the theatre on time, having driven to Ashford in Middlesex first (never mind), and from there caught the train to Waterloo. The brisk twenty minute walk left us with ten minutes to spare. The small theatre was full. Horowitz has been doing the promotional  rounds. Me, I never need any encouragement to see a play, but I had specifically booked this for my Husby; I once asked him what his specialist subject would be if he was ever on MasterMind and he said 'Saddam Hussein', and the 1988 Housing Act as a back-up topic. Saddam is the topic of half of a long shelf of political books in our sitting room. The other half includes Tony Benn, Tony Blair, and Margaret Thatcher. So I had booked the tickets, and we'd rushed to the theatre followed by a two hour drive. Sanjeev Bhaksar who plays Ahmed Alawi, isn't the most serious of actors - sitcom veteran that he now is - and to have him star alongside Berkoff should raise questions, perhaps. But the from the second it started it launched into Farce; slapstick. It was never going to be my cup of tea, but it's tedious when you realise in the first hour that everything was so predictable. I waited with hope that all would change once Saddam had been welcomed into the Alawi household for dinner. Even though his head of security, a one eyed villain with a scar worthy of a Bond villain, had already mistakenly eaten rat poison and lay dead in the Alawis kitchen. Cue set ups like excitement in a carrier bag that would be later given to Saddam instead of a bag of figs, and a string of other juvenile mishaps and it was little more than a very poorly written sitcom. Berkoff had stage presence - but to be expected given his long theatre history. He also has blue eyes. So for too long of the second half I wondered why this Saddam had blue eyes. And was overweight. Saddam wasn't overweight! He did, however, like Mateus Rose. But it was an easily Google-able point that was hammered to death - as was the heavily laden exposition throughout. I left the theatre feeling quite angry. It should have been renamed Carry On Faux-Saddam.

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