‘Brexit: The Musical’ yesterday begun its fourth run following successive sell-out shows at theatres across London.
Written by former financial journalist, David Sherrif, the musical shines a melodic and comedic light on the turbulence of contemporary British politics.
The timeframe spans from David Cameron committing prolonged political suicide by agreeing to a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, right up until the Supreme Court ruling that threw a spanner in the Brexit works. In the interim, not one of our political leaders is spared in this satirical broadside.
Originally intended for only a short run, its success has led to the addition of more and more dates. Even MPs got to enjoy their colleagues being mocked, with a showing in the Houses of Parliament earlier this month appropriately held minutes after the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill’s Second Reading was voted through Parliament.
Anyone fearing a partisan ‘metropolitan elite’ approach to this divisive topic can be assured that no one escapes ridicule. A small cast of seven had the difficult task of taking on an impressive number of roles, with each performer skilfully switching costumes and chopping accents. Stephen Emery’s David Cameron cowered in front of Angela Merkel, played by RJ Steeley with a hint of the dominatrix. A monotone Jeremy Corbyn (also Emery) debated his confused stance on Brexit with his wife, playing out the same dispute which is still splitting the Labour party. We even get treated to a rap battle between Vladimir Putin (Chris Vincent) and Boris Johnson (played by James Sanderson, never on stage without Johnson’s signature cycling helmet) that was funny enough you could ignore its irrelevance to Brexit.
As difficult as it is to choose, my favourite scene was a mockery of the prophecy scene from Macbeth. Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon and Andrea Leadsom stand in for the prophetic witches, with Michael Gove and Johnson the ill-fated Scottish noblemen – a hilarious and apt skit on Gove’s political betrayal of Johnson for leadership of the Tory Party. Let them hail Boris the king!
With the run-time coming in at a little over an hour, the show did feel short, especially considering the wealth of material provided by contemporary politics. The referendum campaign could have received more attention considering some of the absurd claims spouted by both sides. I’ll give David Sherrif the benefit of the doubt on this, because, as made clear on its website, ‘Brexit: The Musical’ is an ongoing project. Hopefully further developments will include May’s new best pal, the tin-pot tangerine, President Trump, or maybe a little more on Boris Johnson’s quest to offend absolutely everyone.
Any feeling of the play seeming outdated is only due to the daily chaos we’ve experienced since the referendum. Harold Wilson famously quipped that ‘a week is a long time in politics’ but at times of political turmoil such as these, even a week seems a little generous – the musical takes us to three months ago but it feels like three years.
A scene the musical kept returning to was an ongoing argument over Brexit between a father and daughter from Sunderland, the first city to declare its referendum results with a resounding 61.3% voting in favour of Leave. The heated arguing between father and daughter illustrated the age-determining reality of Brexit, with younger people (18-35) voting overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and older people (50+) voting to leave.
With a turnout of 72%, the referendum vote saw the highest voter turnout in 25 years. A divided country has brought a level of political awareness not seen for decades and with it a renewed interest in satire. Private Eye, the satirical stalwart, is reporting a 30-year high in print sales. With a new administration in the US that is at times a parody of itself, there is a real thirst for more productions on a similar vein to ‘Brexit: The Musical’. It will keep people engaged but also make sure we don’t take everything too seriously.
Even if this new boon of political satire fails to hold the powerful of the world to account, we are sure to get a good laugh out of it.
Tickets are available from £13: http://www.brexitthemusical.eu/.