BWW Review: BREXODUS! THE MUSICAL, The Other Palace
Even if you're not in the UK, you'd have to have been living under a rock for the past couple of years to have missed the headlines about Brexit. It was inevitable that it would eventually lead to productions such as Brexodus! The Musical, a revamped and lengthened version of Brexit The Musical which previously played at other London fringe venues.
Although clearly one of the most serious political issues of our time, Lord knows there's plenty of scope for humour and satire about Brexit. You just have to look at the cast of real-life characters - Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May - to see that they're eminently suitable subjects for a bit of theatrical fun. And whilst these and many others do feature in Brexodus!, it all falls a little flat.
The caricatures of Johnson, May, Farage, Gove and Tony Blair are good, but actually rather too subtle for my taste. In a production like this more is generally more, and going fully over-the-top would ramp up the humour. As it is, most of my own laughs came from the unsubtle but apt visual cues given by the costumes: Johnson's blonde wig and bicycle helmet, Farage's flat cap and waxed jacket, and May's schoolmarmish checked jacket (although where are the oversized necklace and leopard-print heels?).
Another issue is the plethora of characters - each of the five cast members have between six and 13 to handle - and the constant swapping and jumping between scenes make the whole thing feel a bit of a hotchpotch. A focus on fewer individuals and greater development of some of the relationships and storylines would give the show greater coherence.
That said, the cast are strong and there are some standout performances. Scott Jones's Michael Gove is fittingly Gollum-like and his Lord Mandelson brilliantly Dracula-esque. His rap star Vladimir Putin is a minor stroke of genius.
James Sanderson's Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are pleasingly bumbling, and Paul Croft's messianic Jeremy Corbyn is enjoyable, if a little surreal. I do wish there'd been more Farage, though (and believe me, that's a sentence I never thought I'd write).
To get this far into a review of a musical without mentioning the music and lyrics probably isn't a great sign. The opening number, which is reprised at a couple of points during the show, does give some through thread, but much of the music (by Russell Sarre) feels a bit disjointed, and the lyrics (by David Shirreff) a touch unrefined.
All in all, this is a show that takes a topic with huge potential to be funny but never quite fulfils that potential. With some tweaks, however, it probably could.
Photo credit: David Shirreff