We’ve seen a surge in musical theatre over the past few years of shows that tentatively straddle a fine line between genius and extremely offensive – shows such as Book of Mormon spring to mind. The guise of musical satire almost acts like an iron curtain of protection from people being offended. Adding singing and dancing suddenly transforms a piece and we can laugh at what we’d usually find absurd. Cat Day’s UKIP! The Musical is the newest addition to this sub-section of musical theatre meets political satire, and the results are utterly hilarious.
Here we follow the electorial journey of Nigel Farage – but forget any preconceptions you have about UKIP’s charismatic Master of Ceremonies. You almost feel sorry for UKIP! The Musical’s Nigel. He’s a simple man who just loves Britannia. He has nightmares about her being assaulted by an 18-inch strap-on wielding Europa. And he’s not a racist. Or so he says. He constantly retains this look of the rabbit in the headlights, a man love-struck by patriotism and unsure how to appeal to his common electorate: the Disenfranchised. With a fag and a pint, of course.
But things start to fall apart horrifically. Farage wins the election by a landslide victory, but how well will his plans work when put into motion? Can he keep all the promises he made to the British people?
We’re also treated to a cast who wouldn’t seem out of place on a West End stage, clad in boating shoes, beige trousers and straw hats. All terrifically British, dear. There’s a crazy amount of talent here, which is what saves UKIP! The Musical from coming across as tacky or amateur. Every single musical number is polished to perfection, and I’m amazed at how much energy these actors exert. They play Farage’s voters, immigrants, and most hilariously, parodies of our current political leaders. James Viller’s presentation of Ed Milliband is uncanny, as well as Chloe Ward bike-helmet wearing Boris Johnson: here, the leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party. Which seems rather apt, if not factually accurate.
UKIP! The Musical is not safe, but then again it’s not crude or overtly offensive, since the laughs come from sharp, politically satirical jokes. There’s no point trying to offend for the sake of offending, which is why I think this works so well. You also don’t have to be a musical theatre fan or an ardent follower of politics to enjoy this. As it ends, the person behind me chimes “well, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen”. I’ll let that do the talking.
UKIP! The Musical is on at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall until 29 August. For more information, visit the Fringe website.