It’s 2020 and the UK is still struggling to extract itself from the European Union with the 18-month transition period stretching into its fourth year. In Brexit, a new play by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, the audience are presented with a scenario which is billed as satire but feels worryingly realistic.
New Prime Minister Adam Masters (Timothy Bentinck), a man who appears to have made indecision a viable career option, has been appointed to navigate the country out of the EU. Looking for political scapegoats, he hires Remainer Diana Purdy (Pippa Evans) to the position of Brexit Secretary, and Eurosceptic Simon Cavendish (Hal Cruttenden) as the Secretary for International Trade. He promises them both favour and enjoys pitting the pair against each other, watching them squabble and leak stories to the press.
Interspersed with the action in Westminster, we see the PM meet with Chief EU Negotiator Helena Brandt (Jo Caulfield) who watches in disbelief as the British government continues to tie itself in knots, batting away every idea Masters presents with caustic putdowns. Caulfield gives fantastic withering looks, which is thankful as sometimes her dialogue is barely audible in the theatre, due to the noisy air conditioning.
The play is 75 minutes long and feels flabby; it could have easily been trimmed to an hour. The cast are all accomplished performers, with Cruttenden and Mike McShane (as the PM’s confidant and advisor) both excellent. The drama is word-heavy, and the actors are not wearing microphones so unfortunately in a venue with loud background noise, some dialogue is lost. During the performance several audience members seated at the back left the auditorium, perhaps unable to hear the show.
The script does hold some laughs but it’s not the biting satire that it could have been. There is no overt political intent on the part of the production – the audience is merely seeing a mirror being held up to the ridiculousness of politics. However, the parallels which can be drawn with current events sometimes makes the fictional play uncomfortably plausible.