The stars of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe: Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage

Ukip! The Musical makes a hero of Farage, while Boris: World King will be lucky to make the West End with the talented David Benson still on board

15 August 2015

9:00 AM

15 August 2015

9:00 AM

Ukip! The Musical

Surgeons’ Hall, until 29 August

Boris: World King

Pleasance, until 31 August

Secret Honour

Surgeons’ Hall, until 15 August

Propaganda is said to work best when based upon a grain of truth. Ukip! The Musical assumes that most electors are suspicious of the movement and its leaders. And in Edinburgh that may well be the case. The show portrays Nigel Farage as a bewildered twerp with no charisma and little talent for oratory. His first speech at an Essex shopping centre begins, ‘I am not a pretty nationalist, sorry, a petty nationalist.’ He then falls under the influence of a manipulative racist named Godfrey Bloom. I should point out that ‘Bloom’ in this piece refers to the character in the show, not to the retired politician. Bloom is first seen in a Westminster club, Gay Banana, dressed in a grass-skirt and singing the praises of Bongo-Bongo Land. ‘Sell your daughter/ But don’t drink the water’. Bloom advises Farage to wear a silly overcoat and to portray himself as a straight-talking fag-smoking geezer from down the pub. Farage duly becomes a folk hero and together they popularise the xenophobic anthem ‘Let’s Pull Up The Drawbridge’. The audience is invited to sing along with the chorus: ‘We need to take a stand/ For England’s green and pleasant land/ Now just fuck off to your own place/ We hope you understand/ Sieg Heil.’

Inspired by this slogan, Farage becomes prime minister whereupon Bloom mounts a palace coup and forces Ukip to enact the policies of the National Front. All immigrants are to be repatriated irrespective of how long they, or their forebears, have lived in Britain. Bloom argues that to pick and choose between immigrants would be discriminatory. Farage, with his French heritage, manages to avoid deportation, but his beloved wife Kirsten is sent back to Germany. He resigns in disgust and becomes a sympathetic hero who pines for his absent partner and consoles himself by reading sentimental Edwardian poetry. He tries to oppose the white supremacist policies of Bloom and, in a neat twist, is endorsed by the European Union. The musical ends up extolling Farage as a champion of liberalism and condemning Bloom as a closet Nazi. If that’s the intention of the writer, Cath Day, then the script is a roaring success.

Boris: World King is a larky sprint through the life and career of this magazine’s former editor. David Benson, playing a rather skinny Boris, wobbles in on a bicycle and promptly falls off while a booming voiceover introduces him as a hero, a demi-god, ‘an individual so silly no one could hate him’. Boris is an out-and-out shambles. So is the play. That’s deliberate. Our snowy-haired protagonist is supervised on stage by his director, Helen, a busty but tomb-faced beauty who wants everything to run smoothly but who is constantly thwarted by Boris’s habit of tripping over, smashing props, missing cues, chatting up women in the audience, playing ping-pong badly and taking calls from an Independent journalist who wants to review the show but can’t find the venue.

This rather overcomplicates a very simple premise. Instead of a comic biography with plenty of gags we get a semi-improvised circus routine that seeks to pay homage to Pirandello. David Benson ad-libs with great panache. At one point he made clumsy passes at a couple of women in the audience by asking them what professions they pursued. The first was a brain surgeon, the second a headhunter. ‘You two,’ he said instantly, ‘should get together.’ The show becomes too involved in its metatheatrical cleverness. A teenager was hauled out of the crowd and asked to take charge of proceedings while Boris and Helen vanished. The youngster did very well but he wasn’t the act we had come to see.

The script cools off towards the end and gets a little earnest. Helen turns into an indignant feminist who gives Boris a serious carpeting. ‘Women are just some sort of irrelevant sexy joke to you. You get them to work for you, to sleep with you, and then you get them to shut up.’ Germaine Greer might have applauded but she wasn’t there. I imagine the show has West End ambitions but I doubt if the excellent David Benson will stick with the production. He twice ad-libbed as follows: ‘I didn’t write any of this by the way.’ An odd disclaimer to make.

Secret Honour, about Richard Nixon, reminds us that a legend is an individual who becomes an art form. This intriguing portrait depicts Tricky Dicky as a seasoned hater. He loathes Jews, gays and East Coast snoots. He calls the founding fathers ‘a bunch of English snobs’. Henry Kissinger is cursed as a ‘whoremaster’ who was paid, it’s alleged, to procure rent boys for the Shah of Iran after his deposition. Revolting and fascinating.

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Show comments
  • Xaider

    I’m not surprised it’s held in Scotland whatsoever.

    • Daniel Clements

      I’m surprised it’s not being held in England as there’s far more people that think the cult of Farage is an abhorrent waste of oxygen than in Scotland. England is this shows natural audience – far more punters will actively seek it out and buy tickets.

      Maybe an English guy shouldn’t have written it either?

      • Xaider

        I’m surprised it’s not being held in England as there’s far more people that think the cult of Farage is an abhorrent waste of oxygen than in Scotland.

        I can smell the bigotry from a mile away. You’ve just proven my point.

        • Mary Ann

          It isn’t bigotry, most people I know regard him as an idiot. I think they underestimate him at their peril.

          • Xaider

            I’m interested in how you came to that conclusion – tell me more.

        • Daniel Clements

          Point not proven. English guy makes comment about Farage and oxygen, idiot thinks he’s Scottish… if disagreeing with you is tantamount to bigotry then I feel sorry for you and your family. Get your sense of ‘smell’ checked out btw because it’s knackered.

    • Ivor MacAdam


  • BigRed

    What a load of crap! Anyone who could say that Nigel Farage has no oratory skills needs a brain transplant.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      Yes, but the people who wrote this artistic masterpiece, will say can’t you take a joke and the The Spectator (ahem) reporter Lloyd Evans (yea, right), will say to Isabel Hard and Sub-ass-T-urn Pain, “Look, got some real click bait for the mong readers, yea, look at ’em go. Ramped it up at the end, saying it was a roaring success. God, our readers disgust me, how about you Isabel, what do you think of them?”

  • Alan59

    Nigel for PM , Vote UKIP .

    • Mary Ann

      God spare the people of Britain.

      • Chingford Man

        Spare us from Miss Pathetically Snide.

  • louise40

    I think the UKIP play sounds really silly and also Mr. Bloom might not like his portrayal.

  • louise40

    And is yet another kick at UKIP.

    • Mary Ann

      Oh dear, what a pity, never mind, poor ukip, little diddums.

  • Ngaire Wadman

    What a lovely opportunity for the Speccie to join in laughing at someone’s intriguingly peculiar portrayal of UKIP and Nigel Farage. Kick away, chaps, you’re keeping UKIP nicely in the public awareness. Four million voters can’t be THAT wrong.

    • Mary Ann

      Can’t they?

      • Chingford Man

        One person can be wrong about everything and it’s usually you.

  • David Benson

    Thank you for the nice review and for your flattering comments about my performance. I think I should point out the specific ‘ad-libbed’ lines you refer to are scripted and part of the plot. If you thought it was me commenting on the script then the fault was with my acting. Thank you again.

  • Kevin T

    Good to know the tradition of witty satire in the West End hasn’t died. “Sieg heil”. Yes well done Cath Day, you’re almost as clever as the average leftie Twitter account with a little NHS twibbon on it.

    Although I suppose the existence on the London stage of any play that isn’t based on an old film or a pop group’s greatest hits CD represents a creative leap of some sort.

  • Lord_Wakefield

    A Liberal “progressive” Circle jerk. Same as it ever was.

  • MikeF

    The usual convention when displaying the Union Flag rather than flying it from a flagpole is to do so as if the flagpole is to the left. Needless to say the Union Flag in the photograph on the Spectator homepage with the actor supposedly portraying Nigel Farage is therefore upside down. What else would you expect from the idiots putting on such a show.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      Showing the Union flag upside down just means the show is in distress.

  • global city

    just another little dig to make sure the subliminal messaging stays intact, hey, Speccie?

    • Mary Ann

      And why not. Th specci doesn’t like Labour either.

  • jim

    What do you expect? Would a pro UKIP show ever get staged? Of course not…but it would be funny if this backfired on the luvvies and cooler than thou students the way Harry Enfield’s loadsamoney did back in the eighties.

    • Mary Ann

      Why should anyone do a pro ukip show, it wouldn’t be funny neither would any show that favoured any political party.

      • jim

        An anti UKIP show is a pro establishment show.

  • Nick

    And I’m still going to vote UKIP at the next GE.

  • edithgrove

    It sounds as riveting as radio 4 comedy.

  • monsieur_charlie

    Let me see – Cameron, Corbyn or Farage? No contest. Ha ha.

  • Tamerlane

    Sounds to me like the usual lefty tosh.

  • lindzen4pm

    Dear ISIS,
    Edinburgh is lovely at this time of year.

    • Blindsideflanker

      With all the political classes away on their holidays, and all the Luvies up in Edinburgh , now would be a good opportunity to have coup in England and close the borders.

      Locking out all these people would be a brilliant solution to our nations problems.

  • AverageGuyInTheStreet

    Almost 4 million votes and just ONE seat in parliament. Lib Dems got 2 and a half million votes and 8 seats in parliament. Isn’t “democracy” a wonderful thing?