By Stephen Dowling
News Online, Entertainment Staff
lookalike Saddams - actors and amateurs
is a scene right out of a US secretary of state's
nightmare. Not just one Saddam Hussein, but
14 of them.
Hussein, by all accounts, is alive and well
in a theatre in west London. And he has multiplied.
the beret and uniform-bedecked dictators frowning
from the platform are not the real thing. They
are all wannabe Saddams - actors and amateurs
alike - hoping to play the recently deposed
Iraqi leader in a forthcoming West End show.
director, Geoffrey Posner, is asking the pretend
Iraqi dictators to solemnly wave to an imaginary
crowd, a scene similar to countless news reports.
by one they shuffle to the podium. They glower.
They glare. There are stiff grins and stiffer
salutes. There are an awful lot of fake moustaches.
there are some uncanny resemblances too. To
Omar Sharif, to Groucho Marx, to Che Guevara,
and occasionally even to Saddam Hussein himself.
hoax Hussein waves to the crowd
satirical show that requires these fake despots
does not yet have a name or a venue, but is
due to hit London stages this summer. It is
being written by Alistair Beaton, a former joke
writer for Chancellor Gordon Brown.
Gubbay, the theatre impresario who came up with
the idea for the show, says it will take a sideways
look at the war and the international situation
that lead to it.
is still being written in order to reflect post-Saddam
war came and went so quickly, and we want it
to be as contemporary as possible.
want it to be something between a review and
a satirical show," he says.
it's not all about Saddam, but also our government
and our country and what was done in our name,"
says that the call for fake Saddams, advertised
in theatre paper The Stage, prompted a call
from a man in Damascus - though the caller was
cagey about his past.
any of Saddam's official body doubles are considering
treading the West End boards, its unlikely they
are here today.
Harris (right) - Saddam Hussein or
parade of Saddams are mostly a dictionary definition
of "passing resemblance". They all
have different reasons for donning moustaches
and army fatigues.
Harris, a 34-year-old actor and director from
north London, says "I just wanted to play
is such a fun part to play. It's like a free
licence to play a psychotic lunatic," he
is a good three decades younger than the missing
dictator, but this does not seem to bother him,
although one of the main reasons he took part
was "it was raining and I didn't think
many people would turn up".
Harris' Saddam is no doppelganger, he has been
told he looks uncannily like Soviet tyrant Josef
Stalin, something of a Saddam prototype.
are some who look like the Iraqi leader if you
squint hard enough, though Phyllis Norton, the
only woman in the line-up, looks less like Saddam
and more like 30s comedian Groucho Marx. She
admits that she is only there for "a laugh".
most natural lookalike is Michael Hyatt, a towering
former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company
whose scowl and slow wave are pure Saddam. The
moustache, impressively, is also his own, albeit
"65 last month", has just retired
and has come along to the auditions at the behest
admits that a "15-year-old on the tube
recently stopped him and said: "Here, do
you know you look like Saddam Hussein?"
but he is worried at comments his resemblance
hope I only looked a little like Saddam Hussein,"
might this be the perfect post-retirement career
change? "It's an alternative to going into
the daycare centre or the public library every