Boris and Stephan are guarding their Great Leader as he takes his customary mid-morning nap. He’s overslept and is due at a briefing. Should they wake him up? The Great Leader’s Wife says yes. The Great Leader’s General says no. As time ticks on something has to give…

From a simple premise the new play from Joe Musaphia explores an absurd yet plausible situation that demonstrates how easy it is for a change in circumstance to become the new normal. It’s clear that the two guards, Boris (Simon Leary) and Stephan (Andrew Paterson) had very different lives before the Great Leader came to power. While Stephan is a true believer, Boris is more cynical about the roles both of them now play. Under direction by Gavin Rutherford this characterisation manifests itself in a twitchy nervousness from Paterson while Leary is a cooler persona who delivers his lines with spiteful relish. I really enjoyed the slow deterioration of their professionalism and the swings from subtle to overt physical comedy and back again. The action takes place on sumptuous red and black set (designed by Ian Harman) that includes giant doors, long draped curtains, crossed flags and paintings in the style of Soviet era propaganda posters (featuring some familiar faces from other Circa shows). Costumes by Shelia Horton are crisp neat suits which allow for lapel smoothing and much shooting of cuffs as the guards try to steer a course between disaster and total disaster.

The website description of the play invokes Tom Stoppard, Armando Iannucci and Monty Python. It does feel slightly out of this time – two men on stage, sniping at each other with words, occasionally doing a physical comedy routine. I think I enjoyed it all the more for that reason.

  • Problems on at Circa Theatre to 26 May 2018