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Boris, Brexit, and The Bard. Kyle Williams talks about the bonkers and brilliant Blowfish Theatre.

Kyle Williams in The True Historie of Mr. William Shakespeare by Blowfish Theatre. Photo credit: The company.

Kyle Williams is a theatre-maker who graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2013. He set up Blowfish Theatre with collaborator Laurence Peacock in 2016. Their first show, Boris the Musical, was a huge success. Their sensational debut production was followed by the critically acclaimed Trump the Musical and Boris 2: Brexit Harder. Their ★★★★★ rated productions have been described as a 'tidal wave of horrifying fun' (North West End) and 'take no prisoners satire' (The Outlier Scotland). Kyle is a Blowfish Theatre Associate Artist and freelance creative professional. He lives in Newcastle with his partner and their dog Rollo. 

SHU Acting & Performance: Hi Kyle, it’s great to catch up with you. I’m sure our readers would love to learn a bit about how Blowfish Theatre came about.

Kyle: Laurence and I  started the company in 2016 after the EU Referendum with a show called Boris the Musical. It started off as a joke but got out of hand pretty quickly! Due to the success of Boris, we created Trump the Musical, which toured nationally. We then created Boris 2: Brexit Harder and spent a year touring the UK and doing over one-hundred performances. 

SHU Acting & Performance: We’ve been following your work closely and we’ve been impressed with how prolific and successful Blowfish has been. You've had great reviews in The British Theatre Guide and Musical Theatre Review amongst many others. It can’t always have been easy. What challenges have you faced since you graduated from the course? 

Kyle: When I graduated I worked in administration due to real desperation to eat and pay rent. If you're looking to get into the arts, getting a full-time job in administration is something I'd suggest avoiding. Although if you end up running your own company as I did, all that administration experience might just pay off. 

Kyle Williams as Nigel Farage in Trump the Musical by Blowfish Theatre. Photo credit: Heather Isobel Photography.

SHU Acting & Performance: It sounds like it took you a little while to figure out what you wanted to do.

Kyle: Yes, it took a bit of time for me to find my voice. I spent four years performing improvised comedy with a troupe in Sheffield. I learned a great deal, especially how to interact with an audience and how to connect with them. Before long, I realised I wanted more, I wanted to create my own theatre shows and tour them. I also wanted to work nationally and not be confined to performing in one city.

SHU Acting & Performance: It sounds like performing improvisational comedy played an important part in the development of your performance style. Did you look to find other opportunities too? 

Kyle: In between performing comedy, I also worked as an actor (often for free), to gain experience and make contacts. Those contacts were the basis for getting Blowfish Theatre running. 

SHU Acting & Performance: What advice would you give to SHU Acting & Performance students who are about to graduate?

Kyle: If you are serious and you want to be a theatre-maker, then the best advice I can give is to surround yourself with people who want what you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean other actors from SHU. It can be people from the Sheffield community. There are incredible theatre-makers in Sheffield, so be sure to meet them and work together. Find somebody who can push you and vice versa, these are the best relationships as you will strive to get better at what you do.

SHU Acting & Performance: That’s really sound advice! We hear you’re living in Newcastle now, what’s your favourite memory from your time in Sheffield?

Kyle: Sheffield is one of my favourite places in the world. I lived there for seven years and cherish that time. I love the community in the city. One of my best memories of the course is when we got the opportunity to work with people outside the University. 

Kyle Williams as Theresa May in Boris the Musical 2: Brexit Harder by Blowfish Theatre. Photo credit: Heather Isobel Photography.

SHU Acting & Performance: What was it like taking your University learning into the real world? 

Kyle: I did a module called Arts in the Community, and I worked closely with the Archer Project which helps the homeless in Sheffield. We created a performance that helped bridge the gap between ‘home’ grown homeless - people who were from the U.K. and were homeless - and immigrants. We encouraged participants to help each other and look out for one another. 

SHU Acting & Performance: That sounds like a really powerful project. Is that your best memory from the course? 

Kyle: Yes. Definitely...OR...maybe it was the night I did Stand-Up and pretended to have a poo whilst Mic’d up. Either or really.  

SHU Acting & Performance: Your stand-up routine sounds disturbing and hilarious! Other than developing your talent for comedy, what would you say was the number one thing that you learned while studying with us?

Kyle: The course was the perfect environment to explore and learn what I wanted to do. I was not a seasoned performer before university, I never attended any drama summer schools, etc. I was just a kid with a lot of energy. I learned a great deal at Hallam, and I could list a wealth of things. The course gives you such a wide variety of choices, so it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing. But I can say it helped to mould me. Without the mentorship and knowledge of my lecturers, including former Dead Earnest Artistic Director Ashley Barnes, I would not be where I am today.

Kyle Williams as Theresa May in Boris the Musical 2: Brexit Harder by Blowfish Theatre. Photo credit: Heather Isobel Photography.

SHU Acting & Performance: If you could study with us again, what is one thing that you would do differently?

Kyle: If I could do it all again, I would ensure that I seized opportunities, and try not to be frightened by the scale of them.

SHU Acting & Performance: Can you think of an example from your time with us?

Kyle: A good example of this is when I worked with Acting & Performance lecturer Neil Sissons and renowned playwright John Godber on a piece called The Duck Stanglers of Janada. It was a collaboration between SHU and the International Student Drama Festival. It was my first time performing on the Crucible Stage and I’d never worked with professional actors, writers, and directors before. 

SHU Acting & Performance: That sounds really exciting and daunting at the same time.

Kyle: I remember this feeling of dread during the entire rehearsal period that I was doing it wrong and thought I was going to blow my chance. Self-doubt and fear really held me back. I was fortunate enough to be given many other opportunities by the lecturers. If you do get one, try to remember why it is that they chose you, and learn all you can from them to enhance your work.

SHU Acting & Performance: You’ve come a really long way since you first joined our undergraduate degree back in 2010. What does the future hold for you since moving on from your leadership role with Blowfish Theatre? 

Kyle: I am still very much part of the company. When you’ve toured for several years back-to-back with the same people you create a very positive bond. That said, I will be taking a slight break from performing live. In 2019, I was in one-hundred-and-thirty performances. If anybody has seen any of our shows, they are high energy and fast-paced. By the end of the year, I was exhausted and frankly, my back couldn't take it (getting old is real).

SHU Acting & Performance: Hopefully we’ll see you performing again in Sheffield soon. Thanks for talking to us Kyle!

Blowfish are currently creating satirical Covid19 songs and videos to share online as they cannot perform in the theatre. Kyle is also working with the North East Ambulance service to provide assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Website: blowfishtheatre

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