Spitting Image was hugely popular in the 80s and 90s and with its resurgence in 2020 it’s now taking home in the Phoenix Theatre in the West End with a musical like no other.
Having previously had more of a political focus, the creators Al Murray, Matt Forde and Sean Foley make sure that the show stays true to its roots whilst incorporating enough celebrities and famous faces to keep everybody entertained.
The puppeteers are undeniably brilliant, with a 15-strong cast bringing to life over 100 characters during the two-and-a-half hours of absurdity. Despite being entirely visible they are totally undistracting and allow the character to take the spotlight.
The plot consists of a team of 7 characters (the goodies, if you will) called upon by King Charles himself, who are on a mission to stop Boris Johnson from becoming King. Led by a tiny Tom Cruise, the team consist of an eclectic combination of Tyson Fury, RuPaul, Angela Rayner, Greta Thunberg, Idris Elba and Meghan Markle. Boris is supported by his own entourage including Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg to name a few.
King Charles’ team are assembled by a Britain’s Got Talent competition in which we’re treated to flying visits from Adele, Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran and more. I do feel this section and the much-loved characters could have been utilised more but with a jam-packed plot it was quickly on to the next scene.
Whether it was Liz Truss as a lettuce, the oversized dancing penis or an exorcist-esque Suella Braverman, there was always another gag or surprise around the corner to keep you engaged.
Some of the jokes have been done before - there isn’t anything original about joking about Tom Cruise’s height - but the references and story are bang up to date with plenty of Coronation jokes, including a sword-wielding Penny Mordaunt, as well as a Nicola Sturgeon who occasionally pops up whilst on the run from the police. I can’t help but wonder if the show will continue to be refreshed and updated as the run continues or the jokes will begin to become stale and out-of-date.
There is no political bias with both the left wing and right wing being heavily mocked; Kier Stamer and Angela Rainer get off no more lightly than Boris and his cronies. With Rishi Sunak dressed as a schoolboy and Jacob Rees-Mogg depicted as a giant stick insect, no political figure escapes the wrath of Al Murray.
The musical theatre numbers are few and far between but the well-executed and well-known songs with lyrics changed to create a relevant character song. For example Suella Braverman’s I’m Suella done to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Thriller or the brilliant tap number of Putin on the Blitz.
Fast-paced and daft, the production brings a self-confessed ridiculous night out to the heart of the West End and, as long as you aren’t easily offended, makes for a hilariously stupid yet enjoyable night out.
Reviewer originally written for Musical Theatre Review