Friday 2 November 2018

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre

There have been plenty of Brexit themed plays and musicals over the past year, which is understandable when theatre is so adept at political satire. Brexit, from writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, received plenty of acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and now premieres at the Kings Head Theatre.

Its beginning apes reality, though another two years in the future. A new Prime Minister, Adam Masters (Timothy Bentinck), takes the poisoned chalice of leadership in the midst of Brexit negotiations that are going nowhere. Bentinck's character is somewhat bumbling and inept, as much a pawn himself as he is playing others. Indecision is his greatest weakness, yet paradoxically his greatest strength.

That's key to a play that thrives on duality and (smoke and) mirrors. Political stalemate is here made literal with liberal use of chess metaphors - a clich├ęd, though certainly apt, choice. More clever is the play's structure around repeated scenes and language, like a fragmented mirror. It's reflected too in Salinsky's staging, pitting political opposition against each other for the audience's delectation.

Masters is tasked with appointing two ministers to his cabinet: for trade and for Brexit. His masterstroke is to choose ministers with vastly opposing views, Diana Purdy (Pippa Evans) and Simon Cavendish (Thom Tuck). There are no good options, only problematic ones. But who is playing who? Is Brexit really better than being part of the EU? And the Prime Minister surely wouldn't only be thinking of his own reputation in all this...would he?

Khan and Salinsky have written a tight and smart political drama, full of manipulation and intrigue to have the audience, as much as the characters, guessing until the end. Equally, it's incredibly funny. The cartoonish characters are preposterous caricatures - in particular Tuck's jingoistic Cavendish and Evans' duplicitous Purdy - and there are some wonderfully acerbic lines, catty insults shot like bullets. In their witty and biting satire on the state of the U.K., nobody is safe from Khan and Salinksy's sharp minds and poisonous pen.

Yet despite its exaggeration, Brexit feels scarily prescient. At the very least, we can all have a laugh at the political jokes and a quiet sob at the glimpse of our future. Don't be surprised if this is exactly how it plays out.


Watch: Brexit runs at the Kings Head Theatre until November 17th.

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre

Brexit @ The Kings Head Theatre
Photos: Steve Ullathorne