When Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky began to develop their hilarious play Brexit, first seen last August, they must have wondered how long it would be before the play began to date. Given the rate of “progress” on Brexit the issue, Brexit the play should outlast The Mousetrap.
On Brexit the issue there is, as everyone knows only too well, a wide and ever-widening divide within the Conservative Party. It is the primary task of the new Prime Minister to bring the two sides together and make the right move.
But what is the right move? Or will any move simply make things worse? That is the theme of Brexit the play in which the new Prime Minister, Adam Masters, is played by the actor, writer and comedian David Benson in a way that manages to bring to mind countless MPs but without calling any particular individual to mind. Benson revels in the role, suave and controlled one minute and the next a borderline hysteric as he is pulled – literally – from side to side, doing everything he can to keep the Brexit ball in the air. The leaders of the Remain and Leave factions of the Conservative Party are played, respectively, by Jessica Fostekew and, taking time out from the Penny Dreadfuls, Thom Tuck. Fostekew and Tuck are superb. Both are seasoned stand-ups and they bring everything they’ve learned from that experience to their roles, relishing their many one-liners and wringing every laugh out of Khan and Salinsky’s joke-peppered script. Fostekew recalls Nicky Morgan and Tuck the dreadful Rees Mogg but the actors – and, more importantly, the scriptwriters – know better than to tie their characters to any “transient, ‘here today’ and, if I may say so, ‘gone tomorrow’ politician’. Working for Masters, reluctantly, and lurking behind the scenes as much as he can, is Paul Connell, a bristly and bristling spin doctor, played by the solid Adam Astill who speaks at times here for the real pawns in Masters’ game of chess, the British public, while carefully guarding his own position on the board. And the cast is completed by Margaret Cabourn-Smith, playing a Eurocrat who, through a ploy that is concealed well by the scriptwriters, proves able to throw Masters a lifeline of a sort at the time he needs it most.
Aside from some problems with lighting, almost always the weak point at the King’s Head, this is a smooth production of a smart and sharply written satire. If there is a small weakness, it is that Brexit is presented as largely an issue for the Conservative Party with insufficient light shone in the direction of the equally divided Opposition. But perhaps that and Labour’s many wider woes are matters for a different play from the talented team of Khan and Salinsky. On the evidence of Brexit, let us hope so.
Review by Louis Mazzini
In life imitating art, the year is 2020 and the Tory’s have just elected a new Prime Minister following a leadership contest. Written by a lawyer (and ex-Islington Councillor) and an improv expert, Brexit is a comedy play about the 18-month negotiating period for Brexit, which is now in its fourth year with new Prime Minister Adam Masters at the helm. He was the only candidate every Tory could agree on, and he has a plan to solve Brexit… if only he could remember it. It stars actor, writer and comedian David Benson as the new PM: David is known for Think No Evil of Us: My Life with Kenneth Williams, and BBC’s Goodnight Sweetheart and recently starred as Boris Johnson in Boris: World King at Trafalgar Studios. He is joined by Adam Astill, best known as Luke Browning in EastEnders.
The Spontaneity Shop in association with Jason Smith:
Written by a lawyer and an improv expert, a version of Brexit that’s guaranteed to be delivered as promised
Directed by Tom Salinsky
Written by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky
Lighting design by Nicholas Holdridge
Music and sound design by Jamie Robertson
Produced by Robert Khan and Jason Smith
Adam Masters – David Benson
Paul Connell – Adam Astill
Helen Brandt – Margaret Cabourn-Smith
Diana Purdy – Jessica Fostekew
Simon Cavendish – Thom Tuck
Follow BREXIT Play on Twitter @brexitplay
King’s Head Theatre, 11 June – 6 July
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, The Angel, London N1 1QN
Running Time: 75 mins