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All a bit too much like home: The cast of “The Humans” at Hampstead Theatre (©Marc Brenner)

Here’s is the dilemma about Donald Trump. The stage in America and Britain abhors him but finds him strangely hard to nail down. More than most of the enemies on “the Right” (a widely elastic category in the mind of writers and directors), he is mercurial, disturbing and such a parody of property-magnate-gone-bonkers that their arrows often fall short of the mark. He’s far more appalling than anything they could dream up.

A “nightmarish comedy” about Donald Trump is set to be staged by the ambitious Rupert Goold at the Almeida in Islington next year. Let us pause a moment to imagine a play about the great Shrek in Islington that was not pre-billed as a nightmare. Shipwreck is written by Anne Washburn, who gave us Mr Burns at the Almeida a few years ago. (I reviewed it for Standpoint on the grounds that there are not that many dramas that focus on re-enactments of The Simpsons and the end of the world all in one sitting, so I might as well catch it.)

Washburn is an American writer with a talent for making the odd seem normal and the everyday very weird indeed. So let’s let’s see how she fares with The Donald. According to Goold, Washburn “wants to understand people who voted for Trump and to give them a voice”. It is telling that the theatre today feels compelled to announce as something extraordinary the task of giving the groundlings a say. Even Shakespeare managed that in Coriolanus, which is as much about misguided populism as it is about an elitist leader.

While we wait for Shipwreck to dock, a competent play that deals with the economic circumstances that brought Trump to power is Stephen Karam’s The Humans, transferred from Broadway acclaim to the Hampstead Theatre (until October 13). I wrote about its debut in New York, since when this black comedy about an ordinarily dysfunctional family at the sharp end of market economics has been garlanded with a Tony award and a never-ending tour of America’s (progressive) cities.

The Blake clan are together for Thanksgiving in a badly-adapted cheap duplex in New York. The host is chirpy daughter Brigid (Sarah Steele, who played Eli Gold’s uppity millennial daughter Marissa in The Good Wife) who has just moved to New York’s Chinatown with her slightly snitty boyfriend. David Zinn’s set design deserves its own applause here — we’ve all lived in or had to see our offspring in a flat which is really a horror but that we have to pretend to have selected because nothing else can be afforded.
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