Amid the endless political turmoil of Brexit, a few individuals have emerged looking to find the funny side. Namely Laurence Peacock and his Blowfish Theatre team, the masterminds behind Boris the Musical, Trump the Musical and now Boris the Musical 2. With the latest musical hitting Theatre Deli, Laurence spoke to Forge about his satire and the process behind it.
“I think it has this topical energy to it: people are quite used to seeing satire on the telly; they’re not used to seeing something so up-to-date live… We accidentally made something that went down well.”
Speaking about their first musical, first performed in 2016 and met with incredible success, Laurence explained the attraction behind his brainchild – the magic of which seems to be its topical and timely nature. Born out of the EU Referendum, the first ‘Boris the Musical’ was never anticipated to be quite so popular: “It was meant to be a joke. We just got together a group of people in Sheffield after the referendum because I had this idea and I thought it would be a laugh… Personally I didn’t think it would survive the summer.”
That idea grew, bringing about the foundation of the ‘Blowfish Theatre’ company and two subsequent shows.
Despite the show’s success, Laurence acknowledged the challenges associated with keeping satire up to date. It seems, though, that practice does make perfect as he states that they “are getting used to it now”. Third time is supposed to be the charm and it seems that the Blowfish team anticipates that to be the case: “what we learnt with Trump the Musical is that if you set your satire in the future you’re a little bit more immune to changes, whereas – with Boris the Musical – we found that if you set it in the present you are incredibly topical, which is really exciting. So, with Boris Two we’ve tried to be both. It ends in the future with something which is hopefully not just a prediction, possibly involving an audience people’s vote.”
Current political satire is a fast-paced and incredibly dynamic genre, moving – by necessity – almost as quickly as politics itself. Though according to Laurence the trick behind creating his pieces is simple: “We really didn’t know what we were doing the first time around so it would be reassuring to find that it’s different to what we do now but I can’t, in all honesty, tell you that it is.
“We get most of the words and music done before we go in the rehearsal room and then we tear it to shreds, everyone chips in, it’s basically chaos and we try and make ourselves laugh. You can get a reasonably good idea if you’ve done something good because you create a certain energy in the room and I don’t really think that’s fundamentally changed since we started. It’s not very complicated. It’s just people in a room.”
With such distinctive ‘energy’, it’s perhaps unsurprising that opportunities are emerging for the young company, with the Edinburgh Fringe festival being one such example: “We’re taking both of our shows [to this year’s festival] but instead of calling it ‘Boris the Musical Two’ we’re calling it ‘Now That’s What I Call Brexit’ and it will probably be a substantially different show because it will be updated by the time we get there.”
Such is the way, it seems, with political satire, but the challenge is by no means dulling the demand: “If we did make a Boris the Musical Three in a year or so I wouldn’t be surprised!”
Laurence is also quick to credit the wide range of material the political world has recently provided him with, albeit if that material gives him only artistic joy: “I hear it on the news and politically I don’t rejoice but in terms of artistic material it’s perfect. I pay close attention to it – partly out of interest and partly for the show. It’s horrifying and I am genuinely worried – I didn’t vote to leave – but on the other hand I can’t look away; I can’t get enough. It’s got to the point that I wonder why BBC Parliament isn’t streamed in HD because it’s just not good enough in regular resolution! I need to see the beads of sweat on the PM’s forehead!”
Laurence and his team have never attempted to hide the Remain bias of their show, nor the anti-Tory agenda, however, with such a vast amount of comedic material available from the political scene, it seems that audiences have responded well to Boris the Musical and are anticipated to do so again for Boris the Musical 2.
Boris the Musical 2: Brexit Harder! tours across the UK from April until June, and is on at Theatre Deli from 10-13 April 2019.
Image Credit: Heather Isobel