Brexit at King’s Head Theatre
The year is 2020 and Brexit is now in its fourth year of negotiations. Adam Masters (David Benson) has just been elected PM thanks to the campaign of an Alistair-Campbell-esque man of spin. Masters is a man adrift in a sea of complexity and individuals’ ambitions, trying to hold on to leadership by standing for nothing. He is basically political flotsam, ready to pin his collars that any plan that keeps him in office. Two rival MPs make a play for power with their opposing Brexit plans. Jessica Forteskew, as the Remainer Diana Purdy, has a ruthless glint in her eye and a fast-talking braggadocio that feels very believable. As her ideological opponent, Thom Tuck brings a deranged smarm to Simon Cavendish that is a highlight of the show.
Co-writer Robert Khan worked in Parliament for many years and it shows; it feels all too believable. Fellow playwright Tom Salinsky also directs, in a brisk 75 minutes with a turnover as high as the Tory leadership.
The scene is set with minimal staging: a wooden desk with a brass and green glass banker’s lamp, two green leather upholstered chairs and a globe bar with two glasses on a table set to the side of the stage are enough to suggest the corridors of power.
The writing is sharp, with lots of clever wordplay: “Full-steam reverse,” Masters declares at one point. It’s funny and wordy, giving the actors much to get their teeth into. There are also light touches of the surreal to some of the humour – a “fear of oboes” crops up and Masters makes a hilarious reference to Corbyn: “Gandalf, bring in women-only bakeries and nationalise shoes.”
The most thought-provoking line goes to Cavendish when he describes Remainers as the establishment – the banks, middle-class institutions and so on – “and for once, the establishment has lost and it’s made you all seething.”
The characters are deftly drawn and the play is taut and entertaining. Nonetheless, as a satire about something that has gone so far beyond satire, it feels almost superfluous. Evidently, we haven’t our fill of Brexit quite yet, however, as it was a full house.
Photo: Steve Ullathorn
Brexit is at King’s Head Theatre from 11th June until 6th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.