Writer: Laurence Peacock
Composer: Hollie Morrell
Director: Kyle Williams
Musical Director: Dominic Lo
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
Blowfish Theatre is in a race against time: can the company finish the current tour before Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister? Equally will the scheduled Trump the Musical be beaten to the finishing line by his impeachment? Such is the lot of the makers of truly contemporary theatre.
For now, Blowfish is keeping ahead of the game. The company was founded in Sheffield a year ago out of fury at the referendum vote and the show originally finished with Boris surviving his trauma at Brexit – which would mean he’d have to do something – in the excitement of becoming Foreign Secretary and doing a 007 on all those foreign leaders. Now it’s up to the minute, with the recent election, a brilliantly cruel parody of Theresa May, the Corbyn rap and Boris poised to do a Brutus on the Prime Minister.
Blowfish is strikingly youthful and splendidly co-operative. The company founders and co-creative directors both take important, but hardly upfront, roles in the performance. Kyle Williams plays all the bit parts as well as directing and Laurence Peacock, the writer, spends most of the evening on guitar in the tight little four-piece band. Composer Hollie Morrell is similarly occupied with keyboards and backing vocals. These three, with musical director Dominic Lo, are the creative powerhouse of Boris the Musical, but much depends on the dynamic performance of David Burchhardt – and his surreal wig.
Boris The Musical is pacy, irreverent, rude and very funny. Burchhardt caricatures Boris as an ego given human form, if that is a caricature. Liz Kearney and Polly Bycroft-Brown act as adoring followers in the semi-messianic anthems and assume the key characters of Michael Gove and David Cameron (remember him?). The play proceeds pretty much chronologically, but with no fewer than 12 songs in the original 60 minutes, there are no extended dialogue scenes to develop the narrative, though the rivalry between Boris and Dave (much better at effortless superiority) comes through entertainingly. The songs do a lot of the hard work: far from holding up the action, they advance it with sharp wit and telling satire. Musically they move from rock to rap to those “Who am I?” anthems beloved of the writers of 21st Century musicals – with quick visits to The Sound of Music (“How do you solve a problem like a Boris?”), Messiah (Boris discovering that “Immigration” is a cause for hallelujahs) and Carmina Burana (for May’s non-triumphal entry).
Kearney and Bycroft-Brown bring a wonderful energy to proceedings – Kearney brings a fine singing voice, too, in between the Govian snarlings – but the evening is dominated, as it should be, by Burchhardt. Required to dazzle, he dazzles. Light on his feet, literally and metaphorically, he moves through the character’s many shifts of stance, bathed in the glow of his own self-adoration. Having learned to say “Doncaster”, he is disappointed that “Ed Millipede” hasn’t come to see his show.
The last 15 minutes are a remarkably speedy response to the recent election, full of good things, with the foregrounding of Peacock and Morrell an unexpected pleasure, but the frequent absence of Boris, no doubt sharpening his knife off-stage, reduces the impact. Maybe for his coronation as Prime Minister Blowfish will come up with a whole new show.
Touring nationwide | Image: Contributed