Armando Iannucci’s to-the-minute satire Pandemonium is never less than entertaining at the Soho Theatre, even if it could afford to go further
“It’s true, and that’s the truth”
In two minds about this one. On the one hand, a satire from the pen of Armando Iannucci and directed by Patrick Marber is always something to look forward to (a popular opinion as evidenced by the long sold out run); on the other, raking over the political shitshow of the last few years almost feels like a futile exercise – the reality of the Covid inquiry is its own form of morbid and absurd theatre itself.
So Pandemonium sits somewhere in the middle. A sometimes brutal, sometimes hilarious, oftentimes wince-inducingly truthful romp which indulges its ridiculous nature from the off. It introduces the seventeeth century-ish Pandemonium Players, who play with any and all theatrical conventions to tell a silly and scorching tale about Conversative governments we have known, sometimes in verse.
Though the figures are recognisable, we’re in the land of caricature here – Richer Sooner, Dominant Wrath, Orbis Rex – and there’s clear fun in how far the comedy goes, when it wants to (Matt Hancock would have an uncomfortable time here). And the players – Faye Castelow, Paul Chahidi, Debra Gillett, Natasha Jayetileke and Amalia Vitale – are fully committed and superb as they each multi-role across any number of political reprobates.
But it doesn’t quite explode off the stage of the Soho Theatre in the way you might want it to. It’s tough when your point of reference is something as unimpeachably good as The Thick of It but the truth is the retrospective viewpoint here means it just doesn’t cut as sharply or insightfully. Pandemonium is certainly playful though, and I hope we get more plays from Iannucci which explore the full range of his prophetic political acumen.