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Non-binary actor on his concern about playing Donald Trump

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Trump The Eye. (Nick Brittain)

Trump The Eye: a musical is the extremely queer drag cabaret bringing a new and surreal perspective to the Trump administration.

Directed by Oli Savage, the title character is played by Vivek Sharma, a non-binary South Asian person who brings Donald Trump to life on stage.

After a successful run in New York, the series found a new cast and audience in London, using comedy and campiness to take audiences on a journey of American politics.

The musical written by Henry Parkman Biggs was first covered by Savage in July, who told PinkNews his first impressions were that it was “absolutely bonkers”.

While Sharma admitted they weren’t in the typical casting bracket for someone to play Donald Trump, they recalled thinking “oh my god, that was so much fun” when they first auditioned.

Vivek Sharma as Donald Trump. (Nick Brittain)

The story follows Trump’s tenure, examining his own behavior and that of others. Alongside Trump we have Ivanka (Charlotte Barnes), Banon (Kyle Copeland), McCain (Curtis Medley), Demi the Democrat (Tish Weinman), and Rip the Republican (Michael Mather).

For Sharma, it was the storyline of Rip and Demi that had the most impact. “Rip is a Republican, and Demi is a drag queen and a Democrat.” Sharma explains, “In the context of the Trump-era administration, they develop a relationship and it’s about what happens between two people who are on two politically opposite sides.”

For Savage and Sharma, their plot reflected how bigger political issues affect day-to-day relationships and you can’t claim to “love someone” if you vote against their interests.

The show in general, while incredibly weird, is more than that according to Savage. “It creates a space and an opportunity for people who have been victimized and subjugated by the Trump administration to have fun and take back power,” he says.

He continues: “My partner really likes country music and country music really interests me, because it’s so gay. It’s gay because it’s so performatively heterosexual that it almost circles around and becomes queer.

“You can apply that logic to Trump. His heterosexuality is so performed and so extreme, it seems so fragile to me. It’s very easy to flip it overboard and make it weird and funny.

Trump The Eye.  (Provided)
Trump The Eye. (Nick Brittain)

Although Sharma was initially apprehensive about playing Trump, when they realized it would be a “parody of heterosexuality,” the job got easier.

“I wanted to have pieces of Trump’s ways in there,” they say. “But a lot of the show isn’t written in his voice. He takes what he says and makes it hyperbolic.

In recent months, queer theater has come under increasing attack with The Globe’s me, jane receiving vitriolic criticism for presenting a non-binary perspective and Abigail Thorn The prince increasing security for security’s sake.

Speaking about their response to any potential backlash, Savage said, “Heteronormative patriarchy has been sitting around for quite a long time and it is high time it was dismantled.

“Whether or not there was a backlash, I certainly didn’t pay attention to it.”

“It’s about having fun and rediscovering the joy of people who have been historically and systematically marginalized by the powers that be.”

Sharma added that in a way, the weirdness of the show helped sell it to audiences. “I didn’t know how to get people to come to a show where I was like, ‘This is about Trump.’ But when I said this was a queer cabaret musical? We’re talking now.”

The only time Sharma felt concerned was when an advertisement for the show received comments from disgruntled Republicans.

“There was a moment where I was like, ‘Oh my god, what are they going to do? Are they going to start picketing if they find out there’s a brown Trump? I don’t know if they ever found out.

Trump The Eye.  (Provided)
Trump The Eye. (Nick Brittain)

Although security was needed for the run in New York, Savage thinks the UK theater is “safe enough”.

“I’m not necessarily worried that there’s violence against us. I think there’s a pretty strong tradition of drag and queer performance in the UK. Maybe I should have been scared, but we haven’t had any violent or bigoted responses yet,” he said.

On whether a show about Trump and the US has relevance for the UK today, Sharma, who is Australian, said she should connect with people in all three countries.

“There was a fairly recent period,” they say, “where all three countries had filthy right-wing leaders who didn’t care about women, LGBT people, First Nations people, people of color, etc.

“If anything is added to it, maybe Murdoch media mentions, because I think that’s something that would resonate with people in the UK. We know it interferes with our politics here.

However, at the end of the day, for Savage, the show is just about having fun and he hopes it appeals to Britain’s sense of humor. “It’s a very British show in terms of how it looks and takes Trump’s p**s off,” he concluded.

Trump The Eye: a musical runs until October 2 in Upstairs at The Gatehouse, Highgate Village. Tickets are available here.