The writer and composer Cath Day’s “UKIP! The Musical” is currently selling out the Grand Theatre every day at the Surgeons Hall. I have a feeling that “UKIP! The Musical” is, for the most part, defensively a musical. If you try to argue that the show is unfair or satirically inadequate, the show’s reply is, well I’m only a musical, just a dumb loveable musical, so don’t take me too seriously!
“UKIP! The Musical” is indeed more substantial as a musical than it is as anything else. It is often singing, usually dancing, and always buoyant. It certainly has its moments. Godfrey Bloom (James Douglas Brennan) appears in Swahili costume and he sweeps us off into a brilliantly funny kind of fuddy-duddy rhapsody about travelling to “Bongo Bongo Land.” The cast do good turns as Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson, whilst in her all-too-brief visits to the stage, Nicola Sturgeon is dressed as the murderous dwarf from the horror movie Don’t Look Now.
But this Farage doesn’t fly. The performer Darren Benedict portrays Nigel Farage as an earnest, polite, somewhat foppish figure, who strangely bears more of a resemblance to David Cameron or even to Peter Mandelson than to the actual UKIP leader. He only ends up clamped to his eternal pint of bitter due to a Milliband-esque PR strategy to make him look more human. At first this seems like an interesting if rather overly conspiratorial take upon Farage’s character. Yet in blowing out Farage’s distinct spark of feistiness the musical has to leave out a lot of the story which it is trying to tell. The most famous incident from Farage’s catalogue of antics – that Election Day light aircraft disaster – is almost unbelievably never alluded to. You might assume that Day’s bumptious musical is meant to devour just this sort of wacky material, but her Farage, as I have indicated, doesn’t take risks and he therefore doesn’t fly. Those murky sexual allegations, that bust up on the streets of Edinburgh, that speech in which he asked the President of the European Council “Who are you?,” half of his comedy gold in fact, is expunged from a story which is trading with a floppier, altogether less self-assured Farage.
The musical is also mean-spirited in putting his wife on stage and cranking up the Germanic accent. Since she has never agreed to be exploited to help out UKIP electorally (incidentally, just like Moira Salmond and the SNP), this appears mildly illegitimate. The musical shows Farage winning a general election and becoming Prime Minister, whereupon his party commences a mass repatriation programme. So, the title is wrong then – this show should be more accurately called “BNP! The Musical.” UKIP’s approach to immigration is today far nearer to the Labour Party’s than it is to the fascists’.
I also have to query this show’s depiction of immigrants as constituting a toilet-cleaning, floor-scrubbing Dalit caste. Yes, we might be viewing them ironically, through Farage’s own 1960s perspective. Still, with imagery such as this put so joyously on stage they should be a mite more careful about throwing around the word “racist.”
Of course, this isn’t to say that UKIP doesn’t deserve a satirical takedown and the song “Let’s Pull Up the Drawbridge” in particular administers a good clean satisfactory kicking.
My favourite part of the show is actually unplanned. An official cuts the final applause short and he presents the cast with a Stage Award for Acting Excellence (Best Ensemble). The cast’s confused surprise and exhilaration are beautiful to behold. For a moment, this Farage looks like he is at last on top of the world.