The Third Leader: Final curtain

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Auditions for prime minister are under way in Whitehall. Nothing unusual there, you might say, - one starstruck candidate with a brooding presence reminiscent of the late John Laurie has long been trying out for the role, and there's a surfeit of hopefuls strutting about the area at present, when they're not off on desert location work. Ah, I respond, gravely, in, I hope, a fair stab at the late Sir John Gielgud: but this is for an actor. To which we all know how you rejoin, possibly in the style of the late Eric Morecambe.

So it has come to this, at what was the old Whitehall Theatre, home of the form graced by Sir Brian Rix which still prompts unflattering comparisons with other nearby activities. Nor, it has to be said, perhaps in the style of the late Kenneth Williams, have more recent productions been kinder: one thinks, randomly, of course, of Journey's End, Bent, and Rat Pack Confidential.

And when one also notes that the concurrent Christmas production will be Grimms, The Final Chapter - "enter a world of horror, mystery and fun where all manner of strange characters tell a tale or two" - it's impossible not to feel that twinge of sympathy Olivier could evoke even for Macbeth. Especially when Rik Mayall, star of Alan B'Stard's Extremely Secret Weapon, says he is looking for "an utter, utter, utter arse" to play the Prime Minister. And a Cherie, too.

Still, consolation, probably for everybody, comes with the recollection that, after being similarly lampooned at the same theatre in John Wells's masterly Anyone for Denis, Margaret Thatcher still had eight years to go.