Brexit – Kings Head Theatre, London

Writer: Robert Khan, Tom Salinsky

Director: Tom Salinsky

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Smartly written and perceptive at times, the jokes and political giggles come fast with Brexit but unlike its real-world counterpart, it’s not likely to make a lasting impact.

Some three years after the UK voted to leave the EU the Tory party has just elected a new Prime Minister – a peacemaker who appealed to all wings of the party and showed great promise as the man to get Brexit finished. The main problem is that his strategy to remain in office appears to be “zugzwang” – a chess term meaning to wait long enough when it’s your turn to move that the other party gets bored and just moves themselves. Promising endorsements on all sides for trade and exit policies, the PM finds himself in a tricky position, looking to the EU to help him out of it.

There’s a sense of familiarity through this play – huge sympathies must go to the writers and performers. Has every joke about Brexit been made already? Had they been made by the time this show premiered in Edinburgh last year? The laughs are there but they come from smart wordplay and stock-ish comedy characters that will seem familiar to most from other fiction – the Jim Hacker-esque pol trying to work through issues and maintain his career, a smarmy political player like a greasier Charles Prentiss. References to key news stories and recognisable political figures are sprinkled through, and it does not at all suffer by the fact it’s a play about a new PM bumbling his way through the first few weeks of leadership while the actual selection process is happening in the real world.

It’s the interactions and scheming of the players that drive the play forward, and there’s some good interest generated by opening up the dealmaking that happens in the back rooms of Westminster. It’s not high-political intrigue but there’s a feeling of reality in it that genuinely appeals. Writer Robert Khan has many years at Whitehall under his belt, and this comes across nicely. Under co-writer Tom Salinsky’s direction, we clip through and out the other side – brisk and effective.

Brexit offers laughs and shallow characters over substance – but entertaining nonetheless. Given the experience a number of the cast and creative team have with topical radio comedy it’s not surprising to hear this comes across like a radio play performed with a few props. It’s a pleasant 75 minutes, but don’t expect any deep dark secrets or insights about Brexit to accompany the giggles.

Runs until 6 July 2019 | Image: Steve Ullathorne


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