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Montagu – a donkey’s view of the nature of political leadership

By Bridget Osborne

Montagu – a donkey’s view of the nature of political leadership 5 June 2017

Was ever a play more timely? Montagu, which runs until 17 June at the Tabard, is a play about political leadership performed during an election campaign almost entirely focused on the nature of political leadership. If you have any interest in politics and like satire, go and see it. It’s a treatise on the subject, as seen through the eyes of a herd of donkeys and is extremely apposite and very witty.

Playwright Greg Freeman had no idea there would be an election so soon when he wrote it. He told me it was his response to the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. He’s fascinated with the way leadership appears to bestow such importance while at the same time entailing so little power.

Montague, the chief character, is played by Christien Anholt, seen most recently at the Tabard in Dog Ends. He starts the play as an unassuming donkey, merely interested in eating thistles and walking in circles. He’s almost allergic to the idea of taking any kind of public role or responsibility, but leadership is thrust upon him.

He takes to it with alarming speed and follows a trajectory from initial panic to ruthlessness and ultimately statesmanship, sidestepping the manipulative overtures of Cupcake and her ‘stalking donkey’ Shadow, seeking to use him to persuade the herd of her ‘vision’. This entails jumping off a cliff to the promised land she can see below – a Brexit allegory if ever there was one. If I weren’t already cynical about the political process, I think this play might do the trick.

‘Theatre that from concept to execution is utterly bonkers but quite brilliant’ – Timeout. ‘The theatre company excels itself with the premiere of its latest show, Montagu’ – Stage Review. It’s great to see the Tabard putting on such good theatre in our very own thistle patch. Watch our interview with Christien and a couple of clips from the play.

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