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Trump: The Musical

The folks behind the satirical staging of Boris: The Musical, Blowfish Theatre, are due to follow it up by taking on another spreader of political marmite with Trump: The Musical.

We had a word with the Trump actor elect, David Burchhardt, and Blowfish Theatre’s Laurence Peacock about their plans for Trump: The Musical.

David Burchhardt (Playing Donald Trump)

What made you want to take on the role of Donald Trump?

For the challenge! Trump is such an interesting character. How could I portray him in a way that wasn’t ‘generic’ and show a different side of him? The psyche of Trump is incredibly curious too. He constantly creates and breaks his own rules, linguistically, politically, even logically. For an actor, he’s a character that you really want to get your teeth into (not literally).

In what ways do your previous roles compare to this?

Playing Boris Johnson in Blowfish’s previous production gave me a taste for big blonde demagogues. Boris was the first time I had to impersonate a well-known figure and it was great training for Trump. It didn’t make the research and development easier though. It’s a particularly difficult impression to master, especially the voice.

How have you prepared for the production, whether personally or as a cast?

Watching a lot of videos of the Don! To help nail an impression I spend a lot of time ‘with’ the source. It enables me to connect to what I’m impersonating. We’ve also painstakingly cross-examined Trump’s lines in the script to understand what he’s saying and why. It’s almost like verbal choreography, his speech patterns are so weird. It’s been very challenging but great fun!

Have you taken any leads from impressionists?

Yes. There’s a lot to choose from. Everyone has their own ‘Donald’ impression and my earliest attempt was a pretty ropey mix of Derek Zoolander meets Stephen Segal. Early on, I watched Alec Baldwin’s impression on Saturday Night Live. There are some good aspects to Baldwin’s impression, but my favourite is John Di Domenico. It’s more rounded and interesting. He’s the highest paid Trump impersonator (a lot of people say that, believe me).

What is your favourite Trump-ism?

Bing bing, bong, bong, bing, bing, bing.

Laurence Peacock (Writer at Blowfish Theatre)

In what ways has your experience of creating Boris: The Musical affected your approach to Trump: The Musical?

Well, we’re making Trump, so Boris couldn’t have been that traumatic. The aim is to make a bigger, better and in many ways more Trumpish (for which, read ‘horrible’) show. We like the productions to take their tone from the title figure. So where Boris was charming and affable, Trump is vulgar and difficult. But the atmosphere of anarchic irreverence hasn’t changed.

How have you been able to condense the vast swathes of Trump material for this production?

Ha. It doesn’t stop coming, does it? We decided early on to set the show in THE FUTURE! Well, 2020. It’s still satirical and has all the references you expect, but it’s not at the mercy of events, like Boris was. (Unless someone shoots Donald, of course). Our general rule on whether or not to include whatever awful thing he’s said or done recently is: did it get its own hashtag?

Which other political caricatures are up your sleeve in Trump?

We’ve got a wide range of rogues. Putin is a major character, as is Nigel Farage - or King Nigel the First of the United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland, to give him his full title. Kim Jong-un also makes an appearance. All human life is here.

Which satirists have influenced your writing?

Hmm - all of them, probably. (It’s not plagiarism if you copy from everyone, right?) Recently, The Death of Stalin was a masterclass in balancing laughs with winces. We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from that. And other theatre companies, like A Ship of Fools, who do this fantastic grotesque style of theatre called bouffon. The bodily and deeply unappealing aspects of Trump lend themselves to that.

Have you worked with 53two before, and how has its setting affected your staging of the production?

We haven’t, but we’re really excited to bring the show to the theatre. We’ll be performing in thrust staging (audience on three sides), which is our preferred arrangement as it allows us and the audience to get nice and… personal. 53Two have got a fab programme this spring and we’re delighted to be part of it.

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