Nixon's Nixon

Tuesday, 24 July, 2001

This witty show, which won the Edinburgh fringe in 1999, concerns Richard Nixon on the day before he resigned as President of the United States in the wake of the Watergate scandal. On this day he summoned Henry Kissinger to the White House where they spoke for 3 hours. This political satire speculates on what might have been said that night.

As the events depicted in the dialogue are totally fictitious, it empowers the author, Russell Lees, to let his imagination run wild with a psychological battle that sees both men fighting for political survival.

Nixon is portrayed as a lonely broken man, who has no one to turn to for support apart from Kissinger, an aide he clearly dislikes and distrusts. On this night, when he has to decide if and how to end his political career, Kissinger does not attempt to console the president but to ensure his own political survival.

The moment the curtain lifts one senses that Nixon realises his doom is upon him and yet he tries to convince Kissinger that he can stay in power and that somehow he will pull through this crises. Nixon wishes to be remembered as a great statesman and leader and there is great comic irony as the drunken president forces Kissinger to act out the roles of Breznev and Chairman Mao.

When Nixon makes clear that there are tapes that will not only end his career but also Kissingers, Kissinger soon joins in Nixon's fantasies of retaining political power. In their drunken state they revel in a plan to cause an international crises between Russia and China, a crises in which Nixon will intervene as saviour and rescue the world from nuclear holocaust. The very outlandishness of the plan seems to awaken Nixon to finally confront his true situation. He looks down cast as he now sinks into his chair, remembering the 805,000 deaths he believes he has caused by his interventions in Vietnam, Chile, and Cambodia etc. He falls on his knees to plead with God, not so much for forgiveness but for the strength to resign and disappear into the sunset.

The acting by Keith Jochim as ‘Nixon’ and Tim Donoghue as ‘Henry Kissinger’ is brilliant. They are not only a great comic double act, but they make their characters believable. And to top it off they look just like the real McCoy!

This is a delightful piece of writing. What happened between Kissinger and Nixon on that historic night will never be known, but Russell Lees puts his imagination to great use to produce a wonderfully irreverent comedy about one of the darker moments in American politics.

The show has received good reviews from the popular press…BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “Enjoyable two-hander.” DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “An absorbing and amusing two hander” . He goes to say, “The play's artfulness lies in the way it draws attention to the archetypal quality of Nixon's downfall without letting go of the backstabbing grittiness of political life.” PATRICK MARMION for THE EVENING STANDARD, says “Lees's amusing angle does make for engaging characters and an absorbing night out.” PAUL ARENDT for TELETEXT says, “The play is a triumphant and very funny affirmation of good old-fashioned political drama.” JOHN THAXTER for THE STAGE says, "Some shrewdly comic, not to say surreal, guesses about Nixon's three-hour confab with his secretary of state.." ROBERT HEWISON for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "This is amusing for devotees of American history, and has a mildly satirical edge..."

Lasting 1 hour 30 minutes without an interval this is an amusing play that will delight many theatregoers.

(Darren Dalglish)

Links to full reviews from newspapers...

The Times
Evening Standard
The Daily Telegraph
The Stage
Sunday Times

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