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A Magazine for Sheffield

The Johnson Supremacy: Blowfish Theatre returns with Boris the Musical 3

Meticulously researched and utterly absurd, the saga of the blond interloper and his pals continues at Sheffield’s Theatre Deli this month. The Blowfish Theatre crew told us more.

Boris Musical Landscape Flags
Blowfish Theatre

When local company Blowfish Theatre first performed Boris the Musical, back in those oh-so-serene days of 2016, the blond interloper was ‘only’ a figurehead for the Vote Leave campaign. The second instalment, subtitled Brexit Harder, was just as effective as a piece of theatre – taking nuggets of truth and extrapolating to the extreme.

Now, with some semblance of normality returning to cultural programming, and after having to cancel an updated version of the second play called Now That's What I Call Getting Brexit Done due to be performed at Edinburgh, Blowfish are back with "the next chapter in Britain's political nervous breakdown" – and we’re reliably informed they aren’t pulling any punches. The crew told us more.

The pandemic has been so hard for theatremakers. You couldn't perform 'Now That's What I Call Getting Brexit Done' at Edinburgh last year, for obvious reasons. Have you managed to bring some of the material into Boris 3?

We have a kind of rolling inclusion policy at Blowfish. We go from year to year. So the tricky thing this time round has been picking what to leave out!

We decided to keep our 2019 General Election material in Boris the Musical 3 because it gives really important context for what came next. Johnson’s failings during the pandemic didn’t come out of nowhere. We already knew who he was. He’d been telling us for years. So in the end, it’s made for a really nice show: Johnson’s election victory, pandemic calamity and then whatever you’d call this weird period we’re in now, neither completely in or out of a pandemic.

More broadly, how has Covid affected the way Boris 3 came about and are there any positive developments to the way you work as a company?

Online rehearsals! Along with everyone else in the country, we discovered the opportunities and limits of Zoom (other virtual meeting services are available). We don’t think anyone was rehearsing from bed, but we can’t rule it out.

It was surprisingly effective actually, although the choreography was a bit tricky. So it was really great to finally get together in a real-life room once we were able to and get the show up on its feet. We also kept ourselves busy writing and making music videos during the first lockdown, so we’ve got a lot better at that.

Blowfish was ahead of the curve, in the sense that the first Boris musical came out before his rise to No. 10. Do you feel some of your predictions have come true? And does that make you happy - or incredibly sad?

We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the Blowfish crystal ball. Some of our hunches have proved correct (Boris is PM, after all). Other less so (Sadly, Michael Gove is still to be mauled by badgers).

In general, our writer Laurence has a tendency to imagine the worst, then write it down. It’s not insight that puts us ahead of the curve – just pure cynicism. He feels pretty crappy about it and would like to point out that he always takes the opportunity to campaign for Boris’ opponents during elections.

There is just so much Boris material and you're clearly a diligent bunch. How have you managed to boil things down and what did that look like in practice?

A good rule of thumb is that people forget a surprisingly large amount. So while there’s been ‘no shortage of material’, picking what to include is kind of determined by what people remember. That tends to be the emotional, funny or ridiculous stuff. So, in that order: Dominic Cumming’s trip to Barnard Castle, Matt Hancock being Mr Lover Lover, and Kier Starmer.

Boris musical arrest
Blowfish Theatre

Why is the play subtitled 'The Johnson Supremacy'?

Because he’s won, hasn’t he? If you’d told someone a few years ago that Britain was going to leave the EU, that Johnson would be PM, and that he was constitutionally incapable of performing that role with anything other than bluster and incompetence, and yet that didn’t seem to show in the polls, then that person would be perplexed.

The show is in part our attempt to explain that strange turn of events. So there’s no point starting from a place other than his victory. For the moment at least, politically, Johnson is supreme.

The teaser in your mailout – "dystopian Drum and Bass raves, Made in Chelsea parodies and even a bit of Star Wars" – is intriguing. Can you give us any other cryptic clues about what to expect from Boris 3 when it comes to Sheffield next week?

People should expect all sorts. All that and more. Matt Hancock flogging you an app for corrupt PPE procurement, pop bangers about Getting Brexit Done, Carrie Symonds clawing her way to the top.

If you’d like some lols at the last 18 months – and to feel that other people in the audience might just share your despair and frustration at the horror and absurdity of it all – then boy have we got a show for you!

Learn more

Boris the Musical 3: The Johnson Supremacy runs at Theatre Deli from 22 to 25 September 2021. Tickets are priced at £14, or £12 for concessions, plus booking fee.

by Sam Walby (he/him)

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