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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Boris the Third

Something For The Weekend

Genre: Comedy, Mainstream Theatre, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard


Low Down

When Boris Johnson was eighteen years old, he played Richard III in a school play at Eton. Apparently, he didn’t learn his lines, wasn’t prepared, other than pasting bits of the script to the set, and the result was chaos. Boris III is a comedy by Adam Meggido with Harry Kershaw as Boris, imagining something of what that production might have been like…


Clearly a popular choice at Pleasance Courtyard on a hot afternoon – there was a queue that stretched out of sight into the nether regions of the courtyard.

Adam Meggido’s farce is based on a true story that the young Boris played Richard III at Eton but didn’t learn his lines, wasn’t prepared, other than pasting bits of the script to the set. Accounts vary as to whether he bumbled successfully through or that the result was chaos.

The play aims to both tell that story, with considerable poetic licence, and to make parallels with Shakespeare’s version of Richard as conniving and manipulative. It takes us through rehearsing Act I, scene ii, where Richard intercepts the funeral train of Henry VI accompanied by his Queen, Anne, and successfully seduces her. Unfortunately Boris’s girlfriend, Katie, playing Anne (Poppy Winter), has just discovered that Boris is also bedding her sister Agatha so the scene takes on new meaning as she rages against him in the character of Anne. Throughout the rehearsal period we see hints of the Boris to come, including asking the black professional director hired for the production ‘where are you from’.

The farcical elements are developed as we reach the play within a play with some quick but neat shifts of two flats and a throne to switch between seeing the play as audience and glimpsing backstage. Things get increasingly frenetic as Boris’s efforts to have his lines pasted to the back of accessible bits of set fall apart and reduce the performance to chaos. It concludes with the aftermath in which each character mirrors the appearances of the ghosts before the battle at Bosworth as they tell Boris exactly how his behaviour, carelessness and thoughtlessness has affected them before walking off an leaving him.

This tale is played out with considerable imagination by the cast of six who work well together, an essential element of farce where the timing needs to be tight.

Harry Kershaw plays this early version of Boris with uncanny accuracy. He looks the part, sounds the part and has clearly studied every tic and mannerism.

There was plenty of laughter as the audience recognised familiar sounding lines emerging in new contexts: promises to have learned his lines by the next rehearsal, excuses for his unfaithful behaviour explanations for the shared homework session in the dorm that everyone else recognises as a party… However, I couldn’t help feeling that Richard III provides so much more that could have taken this play to a much higher level of satire; one that didn’t just parody and poke fun at our soon to be recent PM but really delved into the nature of power. The ways in which power is exercised and, in exploring Johnson’s playing of the part, the dangers of approaching any part we play underprepared and arrogant enough to think one can simply bluff and blunder one’s way through it.

Overall, this is an entertaining farce with plenty of slapstick that provides a good bit of fun for mid afternoon with a beer in hand but it’s more of a sugary donut than a satisfying meal.