What if Napoleon hadn't died in exile but had escaped using a body double? This is the opening premise of Napoleon Disrobed which has been adapted by Told By An Idiot from the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys.
In what is a fun, silly, surreal and quirky piece we see the historical figure, played with brilliant Englishness by Paul Hunter, navigating modern-day Europe, trying to live the life of an ordinary person and not get spotted.
Until, that is, he wants people to know who he really is and that is where his problems really start and where the themes of the play start to bubble to the surface.
His story becomes a series of connected sketches that get more and more random - playing tennis with a frying pan and an inflatable fruit random.
Living in Paris with a melon seller 'Ostrich' (Ayesha Antoine), his friends grow concerned by his increasing insistence that he is indeed Napoleon.
So, they take him to a hospital and, in a nice piece of audience interaction, he is shown all the other people who insist they too are the French statesman.
Is our Napoleon actually the real thing or is he delusional or is he someone who merely craves power and recognition. Is the randomness of his escapades representative of a muddled mind?
Towards the end, in one powerfully poignant moment, he looks genuinely distressed as he struggles to recall an otherwise familiar name. Is he suffering from a degenerative condition or is this more to do with an identity crisis?
It is otherwise a riotous, fun play full of laughs, with clever humour as well as a generous, rib-tickling, dose of silly stuff.
Ayesha Antoine plays all the other characters - often with comic consequences - but it is Ostrich's devotion to Napoleon, or Eugene as she knows him, which is the beating heart of the piece.
In the latter stages of the story, the increasing randomness threatens its coherence but it just about manages to keep it together.
The running time is 75 minutes and I'm giving it four stars. It's at the Arcola until March 10.