Home » London Theatre Reviews » BREXIT: A play by Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky | Review

BREXIT: A play by Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky | Review

Brexit - photo by Steve Ullathorne
Brexit – photo by Steve Ullathorne

Back in 2016, the then Prime Minister thought it would be a good idea to ask the British public the following question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” After a hard fought battle, 52% (of the electorate that voted) voted to leave the EU and this has dominated everyone’s life ever since. I have seen a couple of plays about the effects of the referendum, and most of them are very slanted in one particular way. So, when I was asked to go and see Robert Khan and Tom Salinsk’s Brexit at the King’s Head, I set off prepared for a seventy-five-minute ear bashing on how the UK was going to hell in a handcart because of the referendum.

It’s been six years since the referendum and the country is still in the Brexit transition period. The conservative government have jettisoned their leader and Adam Masters (Timothy Bentinck) is the new Prime Minister charged with completing the EU withdrawal negotiations and bringing stability to the warring factions of his party. Adam – ably assisted by his leadership Campaign Manager Paul Connell (Adam Astill) – has a plan. First, he will complete his cabinet, but in a way, no-one, including Paul, is expecting. So, he appoints arch-Brexiteer Simon Cavendish MP (Thom Tuck) as Trade Secretary and then the Remainers standard-bearer Diana Purdy MP (Pippa Evans) as Brexit Secretary. Both of these appointments astound the British public but win Adam many plaudits from all sides of the press. However, with leading lights from extreme wings of his party in the Cabinet, can Adam put together a Brexit plan that is acceptable to party, country and the Chief EU Negotiator. Helena Brandt (Lucy Montgomery) or has he got some other Machiavellian agenda of his own dictating his actions?

First, and to my great surprise, I have to say Brexit does not feel like a play with an agenda. By the end, both my companion and I agreed the writing was neither pro or anti the UK leaving the EU. This is a real credit to the writers who, possibly unlike the PM, managed to put together a story that appeals to both wings of public opinion. The story itself is very good and moves along nicely with some wonderful touches that are reminiscent of my old TV favourite ‘Yes Prime Minister’ This is particularly true of the wonderful scene where the PM is running between Simon and Diana trying to get them to accept totally inappropriate Cabinet positions. The stage may be small but the set looks appropriately Westminster-like and Director Tom Salinsky makes the most of the space available.

One cast member who is probably glad of the smaller stage space is Timothy Bentinck, who does a lot of moving about between people and locations. In another life, Timothy plays David Archer in the long-running radio soap and it took a few minutes to get used to hearing that voice – I’m a great Archers’ fan and listen to the omnibus every Sunday – not talking about cows, or milk yield. However, I very soon accepted him as the Prime Minister and really enjoyed his performance as the inept but surprisingly clear-sighted leader trying to get everyone on one side – his – and ensure he outlasts Andrew Bonar Law (worth googling that name). I really loved Lucy Montgomery’s Chief EU Negotiator. Helena Brandt. Brandt is everything the British PM isn’t. Suave, sophisticated, immaculately turned out and above all, a wielder of real power. Lucy oozes, European charm as she demolishes the British and points out the interesting – from an EU point of view – in which Article 50 (originally drawn up by the British apparently) was triggered. Having singled these two out, I have to admit that all of the performances were splendid. Without naming names – something I really liked about the script – every character was recognisable as a pastiche of various politicians and SPADs. Even the opening PMQs scene felt very realistic.

Suffice to say, thanks to Brexit I did, for once feel good about the whole thing. Whilst the reality of (possibly) leaving the EU and when/if it happens is still pretty much up in the air, Brexit is a really good way to face the subject and have a laugh. Unlike the transition period, there is an end date for this run of Brexit so I would advise you to get your skates on and head to Islington to catch it while you can.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

It’s 2020 and The Gordian Knot of Brexit remains tightly tangled. To keep a united government and to achieve an exit deal remains incompatible … or is it? Is Adam Masters the man of the moment? The political miracle worker of his generation? The Wizard of Westminster? The Gary Kasparov in this drawn-out game of political chess? Adam has won the Tory leadership contest. He was the only candidate all factions of his party could agree on. But the poison chalice is not for him and he has a foolproof plan; A cunning scheme to unite his MPs for the final stages of the Brexit negotiations. It’s easy; a piece of cake; child’s play. All he has to do is… just … umm just … now, what was it again? … How’s it supposed to go? What was that killer move? ….

Set in the whispering corridors of power, Brexit is a tale of comic political intrigue, of promises made and broken, of juggling the balls of power whilst taking the wheel of the big Brexit bus which is now careering out of control.

The Spontaneity Shop in association with King’s Head Theatre
A play by Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky
Starring Timothy Bentinck, Thom Tuck, Pippa Evans, Lucy Montgomery and Adam Astill.
Directed by Tom Salinsky

King’s Head Theatre
October 30 – to November 17 2018


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