We spoke to the man behind Trump: The Musical
“It’s going to be the best musical in the history of musicals. All other musicals are fake news.”
Blowfish Theatre is bringing their original touring production of Trump: The Musical (yes, you read that right) back to Sheffield this Sunday after selling out shows across the country.
Having also produced 2016’s Boris: The Musical, the people behind Blowfish have carved out a curious satirical niche for themselves within the world of musical theatre.
We sat down with Laurence Peacock, the company’s co-artistic director and Uni of Sheffield alumni, to ask, among other things, just why?
Trump the Musical has been performed in Edinburgh and London – why did you choose to come back to Sheffield for this show?
We’ve had a full year – this is actually our last gig. It’s sort of a homecoming show for us. When we made our first show, which was called Boris: the Musical, Alex O’Brien who runs the events at the Union came to see it.
Now we’re back with Trump, so this time it’s worse!
So you previously adapted the life of Boris Johnson into a musical, and now it’s Donald Trump’s turn. What is it that attracts you to these right-wing blonde demagogues?
I don’t know – it’s sort of a niche! We made Boris: The Musical for a joke really. It was for a joke after the [Brexit] referendum in 2016. We had some time over the Summer – just me and a few people that we knew – and we thought it’d be a laugh, and it was. We did it really cheap, dirty and quick but it sort of spiralled out of control and we toured it in 2017.
Trump was elected in November 2016 and we already had the wig and the people, so we thought, “we can’t not”. They’re quite different shows in a way – Boris: The Musical is a biographical thing.
Satirical theatre is a mug’s game though, because it goes out of date, so Trump: The Musical is set in the future – in 2020 – when he’s running for re-election.
The shows are sort of infused with the spirits of the characters, so Boris: The Musical has that bumbling affable charm – like him or loathe him, he is quite charming – whereas Trump is just grotesque. Both Boris and Trump are the most extreme representations of certain national characteristics, and they’re both also narcissists, which is something they have in common.
What’s really interesting about Boris is that in his show, we were at least able to tell the story of a narcissistic character out of control. His interior life is relatively interesting and accessible and interesting – he’s got ambition, greed and all that. With Trump, it’s not very clear what’s going on there. He’s almost detached from reality, so making a plot around it was really good fun. That’s sort of what we went for – this sort of narcissistic breakdown as he tries to bend the world to his will.
In an age where politics increasingly appears to parody itself, what do you feel the role of satire is and how can it provide a solution to today’s doom and gloom?
(Laughs) Yeah, how do you satirise this lot? It is hard.
Firstly the shows are quite cathartic, and people tell us that a lot. It’s nice to come along and laugh. We’re not principally trying to change the world, and you’d have to be a bit of a fool to think that a satirical musical could make effective political change.
But you still can satirise these people in their own way. With Trump: The Musical, Putin’s pulling the strings, Kim Jong-Un’s kicking off and King Nigel Farage is trying to get a trade deal, so it all revolves around this strange, semi-farcical plot, but the point of it was that as long as Trump’s winning, it doesn’t matter if he’s lying, or cheating or obscene. If you show how his modes turn into defeat, then I guess you’ve got a satire, on the character of the man rather than the politics.
Kanye West announcing his plans to run for the presidency sounds like a satirist's dream. Do you think he could win?
Kanye actually gets a mention in the musical. (Puts on Trump voice) “He’s got some very good numbers. Very good numbers. Don’t get me started on Oprah.”
Well you can’t rule anything out now, can you? That’s the other thing that makes satire difficult – you’d think after that performance in the White House, no-one could look at him and think “you’re a sane individual”, but it didn’t matter with Trump, did it? I think that was the first time I’ve seen Donald Trump not be the strangest person in the room. But do I think Kanye West could be elected? No.
We’ve stopped talking seriously about problems, haven’t we? We don’t deal with reality anymore – we deal with fake fantasies, which again makes it quite interesting to do a fantasy piece. I thought most of what we were doing was relatively outlandish, and it still sort of is, but it’s only ‘reality plus’. Nigel Farage as King of England – hopefully – is pushing it, but we don’t want to be too prophetic about this sort of thing.
How would you sum up the musical in a tweet? (280 characters)
(Puts on Trump voice) “I’d say it’s the best musical in the history of musicals. All other musicals are fake news. So much better than Phantom of the Oprah. Believe me, a lot of people say that.”
Or, you could say it’s a geopolitical farce set in the future with some banging tunes and an awful wig.
Trump: The Musical will be performed at the University of Sheffield’s Students' Union on the 4th November. Tickets are available here.