My Country: A Work in Progress – Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

Writer: Carol Ann Duffy

Director: Rufus Norris

Reviewer: Cath Lyon

However you voted during Brexit, this play will make you feel better about the whole sorry business. My Country: a work in progress is a statement of our times, built from the words of Britain’s own people, the fluffy stereotyping and saccharine nationalism that can leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, or sick, inside.

Currently playing at the Warwick Arts Centre, My Country sets out to address (within an hour and a half) the most important and divisive political event in our country’s recent history; to provide a picture of the state of our nation in 2017 through the words of people living in several regions of the UK.

These regions assemble at the start of the play; Northern Ireland, Scotland (which is, for some reason, given its ancient name of Caledonia), East Midlands, Wales and the South West; within a kangaroo court that is figure-headed by Britannia (or Britney, as Scotland calls her). Then, between the typical jibes about who has the best rugby team, food and music, the regions offer up testimony taken from real interviews of real people from their area.

This testimony has been ‘curated’ by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy along with poetry and dialogue that plays upon dusty British stereotypes; Scotland is a whisky-swilling rebel, Wales is the lilting quiet one, the North West is the thick Geordie one and the South West is a know-it-all.

Any vibrancy in the piece is a result of Rufus Norris’ direction and the performances of the company, who are all clearly talented but are unfortunate enough to have been handed the job of polishing Duffy’s turd.

Duffy’s curation, if it can be called that, is lazy. When it doesn’t borrow from other people’s words, it reverts to stereotypes or a lamentable Britannia, who cries for her ‘children’ but doesn’t help them to understand what is actually happening among them.

The result is a piece that doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know; Brexit was yet another example of normal people falling victim to a political system that doesn’t favour them, the British people have a diverse culture that sometimes means they disagree, and a lot of British people are totally disenchanted by politics, as it doesn’t really mean that much to them anymore. But that’s ok because we can get drunk and dance at the weekend. Remember, we are the lucky ones, the play says, so sit back in your seat and shut up when I ring my bell.

A BBC reflection on Brexit, it does not challenge, create or excite, but presents a muddled reflection that isn’t as much insightful, as a mockery of the voices that it should be forcefully presenting – those of the British people. Politics is, and always has been, the bread and butter of British theatre, but, unfortunately, this production makes a meal of it, leaving anything from a bittersweet to a sickly taste in your mouth.

Runs until 27 May 2017 and on tour | Image: Alastair Muir

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A Saccharine Mockery

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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