Credit: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

Boris Inspired Figure to star in political satire, Kingmaker

Tom Salinsky, co-writer of new political satire 'Kingmaker', talks Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party and the collaborative writing process.

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
The political satire 'Kingmaker' imagines a world in which a 'Boris inspired figure' makes a serious bid for Conservative Party Leadership. The press have speculated about it, Boris has jokingly hinted at it but what would the country look like if he was really in charge? I spoke to co-writer Tom Salinsky about his inspiration and vision for the play. Interviewed by Laura Jeffrey.
The theme of kingmaker has a long tradition in theatre – for example the Earl of Warwick in Shakespeare’s Henry VI. What encouraged you to explore this theme now?
"We didn’t start actually start with the theme of Kingmaker, that was a title that came along much later. In our previous plays we tackled what its like to be deputy prime minister in coalition and what its like to be trying to do public services in the BBC in making news. This time we were drawn to the conservative party and inspired by the figure of Boris Johnson; many people think Boris’s almost cartoon character, public personality conceals a much more shrewd and ambitious political operator and this is something we wanted to explore. We started to think about what would have to happen for him to have a real shot at the Conservative leadership and therefore the prime ministership. "
Boris Johnson is often seen as having a bumbling charm, so much so that for some he has become a national treasure, how much does Kingmaker try to dispel or support this image?
"It is trying to explore it; I think the reality is that he is quite a complicated figure who we try to show from different sides. If we have done our job properly then as an audience, almost regardless of how you feel about Boris as you go in, you will be made to see him in several new lights over the course of the action. Also it is important to remember that Max is a character inspired by Boris, meaning we haven’t limited ourselves to Boris’s bibliography or what we actually think he is capable of. We’re taking the idea of a political figure who is very popular but doesn’t always command the respect of the electorate, then exploring how that figure operates and how that personality comes about. "
You’ve made it clear that Max isn’t Boris himself rather a representation of some aspects of his character, but can we expect any physical or vocal similarities between the two? Is Max in anyway a caricature of Boris or is this something you have tried to avoid?
"Alan is very concerned not to be creating a caricature; he told me very clearly that if I try to but a blonde wig on him that he will walk off the stage. Max is only inspired by Boris but there may be little likeness that you will notice. "
Yes, I guess when Boris is already a larger than life, exaggerated personality creating an impersonation could run the risk of falling short of the man. We can all see the allusion to Boris in Max, are the audience supposed to try and see other allusions in Dan Regan and Eleanor Hopkirk – could they have been Theresa May and Michael Gove?
"No, not particularly. I’m sure there are people like that in the conservative party; Eleanor is basically the old hand, shes been there a long time while Dan is the fresh young face but they’re not supposed to be particular people. "
Moving onto the writing process itself, you and Robert have written together since university, how do you manage the collaborative writing process? Are there ever any artistic differences?
"Its generally pretty smooth running, though we don’t tend to write in the same room. Generally speaking if we do have any disagreements, because we’ve known each other for so long, it is easy for us to be rude about each others ideas. I can say to Robert, ‘thats dreadful its never going to work’ but if Robert insists and says, ‘no it will’ I can say right, ‘Go away and prove me wrong’ and sometimes he does. "
Are you and Robert both intending to be involved heavily in the play up to the Fringe itself?
"Yes at the moment it all feels terribly theoretical as our first reading isn’t until June and once I’ve heard the actors I don’t know what I’m going to want to change, probably quite a lot. I think its a terrible shame to go around putting on first drafts, you have to keep rewriting and honing and honing and honing. So yes, we will be involved until the end and, in a cost saving move, I may even be operating the lights myself.  "
Talking of the Festival itself, what does it feel like bringing a Westminster play to Scotland in the year of the devolution vote?
"We did talk about doing something about devolution, but I certainly feel more comfortable taking a play about Westminster problems to Scotland than taking a play about Scottish problems to Scotland. I think at the moment whoever is running the country from Westminster is of huge importance to the people of Scotland, as it is for the people ofEngland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so hopefully the play will be of interest to everybody. "

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Pleasance Courtyard
60 Pleasance
Edinburgh EH8 9TJ
Eat & Drink
The beautiful old building melts seamlessly into a clean, modern interior which culminates in huge statement lights hanging from the high domed ceiling.  Read more...
From scrummy scrambled eggs to freshly prepared sandwiches Milk gets everything just right.   Read more...
A beautiful gallery and fascinating artist's workshop, which just happens to sell some of the best cakes in Edinburgh.  Read more...