I’ve been waiting for a good play – and preferably a musical – on Brexit since, well, Brexit. I’d had high hopes for The Brexorcist, which was on as part of Brighton Fringe this year, but unfortunately this bizarre piece of work missed the mark at every opportunity. Brexit the Musical, however, is the light-hearted, song-fueled pick-me-up we all need in the wake of the year’s depressing political events.
The story here is a familiar one, after all – we’ve lived through the events blow-by-blow since they began unfolding last June. Written by Brexit lawyer Chris Bryant, Brexit the Musical parades our famed Conservative politicians across the stage as caricatures of themselves. The entire party are in a kerfuffle, flabbergasted at the fact the country has actually voted for Brexit, and desperately searching for a way to back out of their rich-boy-power-trip ‘democracy’ game gone wrong. Johnson – or ‘BoJo’ as he affectionately nicknames himself here – is clad in a Union Jack boxer and sock combo, ready to escape abroad with Gove at the first opportunity. The pair quiver under May’s firm demands to find a physical manuscript left by Osborne – now amnesia-ridden with fantasies about being a newspaper editor(!) – to help them out of this mess.
Abandoning the usual jargon-led waffle of politicians, each lead role gets to sing at least one belter about their personal role in the mess. Leadsom sings a sickly sweet number about her qualified CV and how a mother knows best, and Gove wails about his lack of popularity, questioning if he should try his luck on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ instead. David and Samantha Cameron’s duo on the perils of being ordinary is a highlight. The political left don’t escape. With one wellie on and a calendar count down on his wall, Corbyn pines over his missed Glastonbury opportunity (remember, we’re a year before chants of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!” followed the Labour leader between his festival appearances in 2017) as a result of the referendum. Yep, there was no drinking organic wine or smoking a“funny fag” at Glastonbury for Corbyn in 2016.
May is depicted as surprisingly likeable; when she sings “If I’m a bloody difficult woman, it’s because I have to deal with bloody difficult men” the audience roar and clap in appreciation. I can’t speak for everyone, but this is certainly the first time I’ve cheered for our Prime Minister.
But what about everything that’s happened since Brexit? Our devastating decision to leave the EU feels like old news since May won this year’s general election and shocked us all by going into government with the DUP. While I hope Bryant decides to write a sequel on what’s happened since, 2017’s events are briefly wrapped up in a forward-looking song sung with wicked satisfaction by May herself.
Strong and Stable productions live up to their name and bring us the first sturdy thing to come out of Brexit. Sure, the gags could be more cutting and the characters are all tame, huggable versions of themselves, but frankly, when the real Brexit aftermath is as dire as it is, Brexit the Musical is the gentle laugh we need.