BWW Review: BREXIT, King's Head Theatre
Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky's play was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and much water has passed under the bridge since then, none of which has dated the play at all. The future of confrontational stasis it foresaw has largely come to pass and the caricatures look less broad and more lifelike with every passing day. But that desperate reality presents a problem - how can you out-farce a farce?
We're some time in the future. Adam Masters has been appointed Prime Minister and must unite the warring factions in his Tory party: the "Return, but if we can't return, stick to the Transition Agreement's customs union" lot; and the "Leave, but properly, not in name only" hardliners. And so the dance begins.
David Benson gives us a Theresa Mayish PM, vacillating this way and that, his own ambivalence making him an ideal person to manage the journey to compromise, but a hopeless leader to deliver it .
Diana Purdy champions the soft Brexiters, Jessica Fostekew a mix of sly leaking to the press and personal aggression. As her adversary, hard Brexit man Simon Cavendish, Thom Tuck goes for a curious hybrid of Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg - quite a feat of acting, when you put it like that.
If that triangle forms the base of the play, two bilateral relationships offer more satire. We see Masters in flashbacks talking to Chief EU Negotiator, Helena Brandt (Margaret Cabourn-Smith in a wobbly accent), which underlines that Masters has nowhere to go, whichever faction of the party he backs - black comedy indeed.
We also see Masters clinging to his campaign manager, Paul Connell, an Alastair Campbell like guru who never reveals his hand and knows what being set up as a fall guy looks like. Adam Astill plays him as continually angry, but Connell knows that the Prime Minister's Realpolitik is with Cavendish's case, even if the Party Leader's Realpolitik is with Purdy's. Connell likes winning elections, but doesn't like the messy business of dealing with the aftermath.
The central dilemma - unsurprisingly - is not resolved.
Salinsky, who also directs, keeps the pace high and, once he gets the lighting sorted out so we're not peering into the dark, Brexit (unlike its inspiration) will be a breezy diversion in these troubled times.
But the jokes aren't really sharp enough (you can't help thinking back to Yes Minister, no matter how unfair that is) and the satire doesn't bite hard enough - after all, the actual politicians are already beyond parody. What's left is something that isn't quite this and isn't quite that - rather like the neighbouring MP's position as Leader of the Opposition.
Photo Steve Ullathorne