From peroxiding his hair to learning new lines nightly, Vicky Edwards talks to actor Will Barton about playing one of the most polarising politicians of all time.

THE new political comedy from journalist, broadcaster and playwright Jonathan Maitland, The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson sold out at London’s Park Theatre, making a tour almost inevitable. For Will, taking the play around the country doubles his pleasure.

“I absolutely love touring and a week in a city really gives you the chance to get to know a place," he says. "I love to get out and see all that there is to see. So long as I get good digs then for me touring is just great.”

One of the joys of touring for Will is returning to venues and towns that he has played previously. “It is always lovely to return to a town or a theatre you have enjoyed before and so I am very much looking forward to taking The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson to Newcastle.”

He is just as enthusiastic about the play. “It’s a great night out,” he promises. “Great fun and it doesn’t lecture. Interestingly, I had two friends come to see the show on the same night at Park Theatre. One had his People’s Vote badge on and had been on a march that day; the other was a big Nigel Farage fan. They both loved it. It is something for both Leavers and Remainers. But it is also a cautionary tale that reminds us to be careful what we wish for. We are not sure that Boris got where he has at the time he wanted to be there – I’m sure he would rather be PM when there was no Brexit – but that’s the way of politics.”

Would he describe the play as an antidote to Brexit? “It is really good fun, a bit ‘out there’ and very funny, so yes, it certainly lightens up the whole sorry mess.”

Directed by Dugald Bruce-Lockheart (a long-standing member and associate director of Edward Hall’s Propeller), the premise is fascinating. It is February 2016. Boris Johnson has decided to vote ‘leave’ and, at a dinner party, he is joined by fellow MP Michael Gove, Gove’s wife the journalist Sarah Vine and, for Boris at least, the spirits of Prime Ministers past – Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and Tony Blair. Fast forward to post-Brexit Britain, 2029. Boris, no longer in power (for reasons that may be fact and/or fiction at time of performance!), roams the political wilderness. But unexpected events see him back in the spotlight.

“I can’t say too much or it will be a spoiler, but it’s interesting to wonder what Britain might look like in ten years’ time and to guess at what Boris might be up to. Let’s just say that he has the chance to ‘make Britain great again’.”

It certainly sounds as if it will be as much fun to perform as it will be to watch, but I’m keen to find out if there’s any truth in the rumour that Will may have new lines to learn for every performance – according to the press release ‘the script will be updated – nightly, if necessary - to reflect events’. Wowzer! Surely that comes under the heading of Above and Beyond the Call of Thespian Duty?

“It was a challenge when we did the play at the Park,” admits Will. “I was juggling learning new lines with looking after my daughter and actually doing the show, but it works really well and I’m more relaxed about it this time.”

The Northern Echo:

INTRIGUED as to how an actor gets into the head of BoJo, I ask Will how he sets about becoming Boris.

“With all characters you have to find something that you like about them. There is almost always something that chimes with you, so with Boris I began with the fact that we both don’t always think before we speak. Neither of us is particularly politically correct and we are chaotic and untidy; quick-witted, but not intellectual. He doesn’t grasp detail particularly well and I don’t think I do.

“I work from the outside in. His eyes are very important to me. He tends to look up in in specific way and if I do that somehow that helps me to channel him. He also walks like an ungainly Mike Tyson, so I watched a lot of footage of him walking. But the lines are there and so it’s just a case of ‘getting’ him and trying not to impose. I do seem to be able to tap into him for some reason,” he muses.

Some actors might baulk at playing such a provocative character – especially one that is not only still alive, but who is in such a prominent position of power – but Will has no such anxieties.

“He is a very contentious character; the loveable buffoon with a darker side who says what comes into his head half the time, but I was delighted to be asked to play him. I’m usually a character actor who doesn’t play the lead, so this really is a great opportunity.”

With an impressive array of credits in theatre, film and television, on TV, Will has appeared in shows including A Confession, Vanity Fair, Holby City, EastEnders, New Tricks and Doctors. Fortuitously, providing the perfect warm-up, he also played Boris in the BBC drama documentary, Theresa v Boris.

“That was quite a sympathetic performance of Boris, I think,” he says, adding that during the London run of ‘The Last Temptation’ Rachel Johnson, Boris’s sister, came to see the show incognito and couldn’t get over the likeness, finding it so odd how alike Will was to her brother.

“She was raving about it and thought it was absolutely hilarious, so I must have been doing something right!”

Surprisingly, perhaps, Will tells me that he won’t be donning a wig for the play.

“I dye my hair and it makes a big difference. I’m not sure why, but it does.”

  • The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, Northern Stage, Newcastle, February 18-22. Go to or call the box office on 0191 230 5151 for tickets.