So it’s an easy target. So it doesn’t take a comic genius to wring a few laughs from Nigel Farage and his band of closet racists and indignant middle-Englanders. Hellbent Theatre might not be winning any points for originality, but UKIP! The Musical proves itself to be a meatier proposition than the usual zeitgeist-skewering Fringe presentation, with some fantastically hummable songs and a plot that sidesteps the obvious and offers a fairly nuanced reading of the rise of the Kippers.
Writer, composer and lyricist Cath Day’s masterstroke is focusing on Farage, casting him as a kind of tragic hero who makes one too many compromises in his heartfelt quest for a European exit. We see Farage grow from a stilted idealist to the pint-chugging, fag-smoking frog-monster we know and hate, spurred on by the extremists and loons that riddle his party. Darren Benedict gives a great performance as the leader, but there’s talent running right through the cast, with some spot-on impersonations and plenty of fun at the expense of the major party leaders.
Day’s book is less sharp than her plotting, with some by-the-numbers dialogue, but songs including UKIP anthem ‘Let’s Pull Up the Drawbridge’ are crisply written and catchy as hell. The sight of an all-white, all-posh cast taking on a bunch of comedy foreign accents sours a few scenes, and the rape of lady Britannia by strap-on clad Europa is an unfortunate lapse in taste, but it’s an addictive and strongly composed new musical with its heart firmly in the right place.