We could be forgiven for forgetting that somewhere, amongst the fog of the Brexit headlines and the smog of the Farage drivel: o cleverly designed to numb and confuse, we are still- albeit slowly and awkwardly- exiting the European Union. Yet, there I was sat at the Cygnet Theatre watching comedy duo ‘Substance and Shadow’, with their performance of ‘The Brexit Club’, take me back to that infamous decision day on 23rd June 2016. So why now? Within the answer lies the central downfall of the evening’s entertainment: despite a strong effort to play a number of characters and moments of witty humour, it lacks the originality to go beyond anything we have heard before.
It is lunchtime in the canteen of Pollards Pickles factory as cousins Len Silver (Nathan Simpson) and Melvyn Gould (Midge Mullin) are at the centre of a fierce debate. Sid’s Vishnu’s (also Nathan Simpson) lentil, dahl and Don Beattie’s (also Midge Mullin) bangers and mash are emblems of a nation divided! Tensions are high as opinions are divided over whether or not to vote and more importantly, remain or leave? It is this question that runs throughout and steers the narrative. As Melvyn toys with the idea of asking Polish canteen worker Magda on a date and Len, whilst attempting to make a friend amongst the union seniors, eagerly awaits his employment hearing, it will be their decisive Brexit vote that ultimately dictates their future.
it lacks the originality to go beyond anything we have heard before
Original and unique – perhaps not, but not all the dialogue between this dynamic couple is lost on the audience. Early on, Len and Melvyn draw parallels between the Brexit vote and Roy Hodgson’s calamitous Euro 2016 exit, poke fun at the empty NHS promises and satirise right-wing views on immigrants. The two of them clearly did enough to make light of the situation, the audience was scattered with mumbled sniggers and hushed laughter. At one point a rhetorical “Boris Johnson – Twat or genius?” was asked, one lady felt necessary to loudly respond with the former.
dynamically changing subtle props and executing alternative accents with great success
The performance concludes with its best passage as Simpson and Mullin create a quick-witted conversation between four characters, dynamically changing subtle props and executing alternative accents with great success. Their timing and precision wrap up proceedings in style. It is testimony to their chemistry that an audience can be so receptive to a production that utilises so little variation in set and props. The performance concludes by perfectly summing up the confused nature and spirit of the British people after the results come in. Just as Len and Melvyn contemplate the outcome, us too in the audience are left to reflect on the year. Glorious Britannia, which was meant to be sailing home to the halcyon days of self-determination and national pride has left nothing but bitterness and division in its wake.