Lady Gaga and Julian Assange are two of the most recognisable names and faces in the world, so it was inevitable that someone would conceive a musical about the two.
And that someone is William Hannagan, the writer and co-director of Kin Collaborative’s MUD Festival entry, Gaga & Assange, a what-if reimagining of their meeting at Assange’s current home at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London last year. Hannagan describes Gaga & Assange as “a hypothetical romp with songs of epic pure pop proportions,” and it certainly was.
I thought Gaga & Assange was going to be a lot darker from the “leaked” trailer and premise of sex tapes and STIs, but I was pleasantly surprised by the campiness and outright hilarity of the show. Laura Raiti is the second coming of Gaga, not only physically embodying Mother Monster but tapping into her speech patterns, inflections and mannerisms (I would have liked to see some more paws up, though). And Chris Runciman is a convincing Assange, making an odd and unlikable (from my point of view) man a plausible love interest for Gaga.
The audience could see the themes of hypocrisy, fame and pretension both in the script and the music, composed by Jeremy Russo, which was brilliantly original and would not be out of place on an actual Lady Gaga album. Essentially, Gaga & Assange dealt with the fame and artifice of both figures; Assange may be perceived as the more “serious” of the two, but they both espouse messages of transparency whilst hiding behind embassies and prosthetics, claim to be “freaks” (“I was thrown in the trash!” as a child, Gaga cries) and are slaves to their respective brands.
I will admit the show gets a bit tedious towards the end, going a smidgen too long in my opinion, but on the whole it’s a riotous musical that hits Gaga and Assange’s public personas on the head whilst wondering what goes on under the surface.