“Saunders’ pitch-perfect mimicry of brainless and self-justificatory presidential utterances contributes to a unique blend of hilarity, horror and sci-fi”

— Sunday Telegraph on The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil 

Welcome to Outer Horner, home of Phil: an embittered nobody with a chip on his shoulder, an external mounting-rack that houses his brain, and an opinion for every occasion.

When neighbouring Inner Horner suddenly shrinks, forcing its inhabitants to spill over the border, it is Phil who steps into the breach. This is the tragic and hilarious story of the brief and frightening reign of Phil.

A new musical version of George Saunders’ cult story is in the early stages of development at the National Theatre in London. Now, for the first time, its creators Bret McKenzie, Tim Price and Lyndsey Turner offer up a work in progress showing of their first draft to a live audience.

With script in hand, actors, musicians, singers and technicians will test out their new material, rewriting each day in response to the audience and turning the Festival into a living, breathing development lab for Saunders’ brilliant and timely satire on nationalism and power.

A 'work in progress' showing of a new musical based on the novella by
George Saunders

Book by
Tim Price

Music and lyrics by
Bret McKenzie

Directed by
Lyndsey Turner

There is a free post-show talk for this event on Wednesday 11 March at Shed 6.

Download the event programme here.

Continue the conversation with Booker Prize winner George Saunders as part of the Writers programme.

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil is under commission to the National Theatre of Great Britain and is presented in association with the National Theatre of Great Britain.

Cast and Crew


Phil Daniel Rigby
Carol Naana Agyei-Ampadu
Leon Devon Neiman
Gertrude Caitlin Drake
Vance Andrew Paterson
President / Gus Jeffrey Kingsford-Brown
Wanda / Edna Moana Ete
Jimmy / Phil's Dad Tom Knowles
Freeda Vanessa Stacey
Cal Nigel Collins
Andy Zechariah Julius Donnelly
Melvyn Jeremy Randerson

Other parts played by the company.


Justin Clarke
Ben Lemi
Jacqui Nyman
Drew Erickson


Co-designer Camilla Clarke
Co-designer Chloe Lamford
Musical Director Tarek Merchant
Assistant Director Eleanor Bishop
Stage Manager Ashley Mardon
Production Manager Bridget Carpenter
Production Manager Elliott Harris

Partnered by
Thanks to

Tuesday 10  –  Saturday 14 March

Tuesday 10 March Sold Out! 7:30pm
Wednesday 11 March Sold Out! 7:30pm
Thursday 12 March Sold Out! 6:30pm
Friday 13 March Sold Out! 6:30pm
Saturday 14 March Sold Out! 4pm


Shed 6

  • Wheelchair Access Symbol.png Wheelchair accessible
  • Deaf Access Symbol NZSL NZSL Interpreted
Duration: approximately 2 hours

This production contains strobe lighting and coarse language

Access Theatre Music Comedy

What would you do with unlimited power?

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