Boris the Musical 2: Brexit Harder – Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

Writer: Laurence Peacock

Director: Kyle Williams

Reviewer: James Garrington

The Blowfish Theatre production of Boris the Musicalcame about as a result of that now infamous referendum in 2016 – a satirical musical about Boris Johnson and Brexit. Three years on, and we’re still arguing about whether or not we should leave the EU – so out comes the sequel, Boris the Musical 2: Brexit Harder. It’s a completely revised and updated piece, reminding us about how we got to the point we’re currently at.

We start at Eton and then Oxford – one of the standard routes into Parliament for prominent Conservative politicians – and see how the relationships formed there affected Boris’ future, before moving to his time as a journalist. He was for several years the Brussels Correspondent for The Telegraph and creator of many of the most extreme Euromyths, misrepresented and often fictitious claims about European policy, before becoming Mayor of London – all the time coveting a career in politics and more than anything, becoming Prime Minister.

For satire to be effective it needs to be hard-hitting with over-the-top caricatures of the people involved – and Boris the Musical 2is certainly that. James Ringer-Beck is Boris Johnson, complete with blond wig, Johnson’s mannerisms and sounding pretty like him too – complete with slightly bumbling delivery and lots of talking around points rather than actually answering them. Laurence Peacock’s acutely observed script picks out Johnson’s style beautifully, though we never see beyond the facade to discover much about the real man underneath, beyond that one ambition.

Each of the cast of five plays multiple roles, and each gets their memorable moment in the spotlight too, with certain characters standing out. Polly Bycroft-Brown is a slimy and creepy Michael Gove, as an Environment Secretary with a penchant for hunting and strangling badgers, and Laurence Peacock’s Jeremy Corbyn character is instantly recognisable as he seems to suggest everything and commit to nothing. Natasha Lanceley gives a memorable interpretation of Jacob Rees Mogg, complete with fishnets and top hat as she sings about her Hard Brexit– one of many well-conceived numbers written by Dominic Lo for the production, in a wide variety of styles from classic harpsichord to Grime.

Just about stealing the show though, among all the excellent contenders, is Kyle Williams who achieves what many would think to be impossible – making you almost feel sorry for Theresa May. Initially portrayed as a Thatcher-like character (one of many nods in the direction of the show’s illustrious predecessor, Spitting Image) she becomes increasingly deranged and frustrated in her attempts to keep everyone happy before finally losing the plot completely.

As is inevitable with political satire, your degree of understanding and appreciation will undoubtedly vary according to your level of political awareness – and for some in the audience, some of the less-prominent characters or behaviours may not be instantly recognisable. Is that a problem? Possibly not, but the more you know the more you’ll see. Theatre is also meant to stir up emotions in its audience, and Boris the Musical 2will probably achieve that too – though the specific emotions may well depend on both your level of political engagement and your feelings about where we are. You may find yourself leaving happy, full of optimism – or frustrated, angry, depressed. However it leaves you feeling, you have to admire the beautifully judged caricature performances in a well-conceived piece of satire. As it says in the programme – see you in another two years for the inevitable sequel.

Runs Until 7 July 2019 | Image: Contributed

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Beautifully conceived and wicked satire

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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