A comic fable from Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky
This is a fast-moving, merciless satire comes from barrister and playwright Robert Khan, and writer and podcaster Tom Salinsky (who also nimbly directs). This pair of Jewish wits offer a take on Brexit that is, if anything, sharpened by its arrival in London after selling out in Edinburgh.
The year is 2020. Shiny bright and eager new PM Adam Masters is (still) leading the Tories through the final stages of Brexit negotiations. Spookily this PM is not so much a David Cameron soundalike as a David Archer soundalike, as Timothy Bentinck, who plays Masters, is indeed the voice of the eponymous paterfamilias in Radio 4’s soap. Archer’s fans may find it strange – or perfectly logical – for the gentleman farmer to be the PM to shepherd the Brits out of Europe with his “united and principled government … merging mutually contradictory departments”.
This he attempts under the reluctant guidance of his weary and wary campaign manager, chief of staff and minder Paul Connell (excellent Adam Astill). But PM Masters has failed to, erm, master the proposals he is supposed to be taking to Brussels, because he never gets round to reading the file the long-suffering Connell has painstakingly prepared for him. So, luckily for the audience, the proposals have to be spelled out for him.
Connell’s “master” plan is to neutralise his party’s remainers and Brexiteers by using their most vocal spokespersons to cancel each other out. Pippa Evans’ deliciously strident ‘remoaner’ Diana Purdy is horrified when she’s offered Brexit Secretary; Thom Tuck’s Boris sound-off-alike Simon Cavendish is equally disbelieving when he is offered Trade Secretary. “The only job in government that I wouldn’t want,” each gasps in turn.
It could all go so well, but might Helena Brandt, hard-line Brussels suprema, a sort of female Michel Barnier, prove Masters' nemesis? She is played with a glacial elegance and accent by Lucy Montgomery, who makes lines like, “For us, Brexit is like a close friend confiding that they have contracted a terrible disease”, seem worryingly plausible. The gender reversal of British PM and Chief EU Negotiator really works.
There is plenty more incisive wit before a denouement that you probably won’t anticipate – and it’s not really a spoiler alert to flag up that David Cameron himself might find it a perfect personal outcome. This is just the show to help us not simply to smile, but to laugh out loud through our tears as we exit the European stage.
By Judi Herman
Photos by Steve Ullathorne
Brexit runs until Saturday 17 November. 7pm, 3pm (Sun only; plus 17 Nov). £19.50, £18 concs, £10 under 30, £5 unwaged. King’s Head Theatre, N1 1QN. 020 7226 8561. www.kingsheadtheatre.com