The play charts some dangerous and controversial territory in the divide between those who voted to leave the European Union and those who voted to remain. As has been debated and discussed at length, the Referendum opened up a chasm that ran through families and close friends as well as communities and across social groups. Not, one might think, the most promising material for a comedy. However, it turned out to be pretty much the only way in which the subject could be adequately and sensibly handled.
In this play, the company holds up a burning glass to the issues and scorches some feet. In throwing an uncomfortable light on how everyday people make decisions – personal loyalty, arguments that aren’t reasoned through, the last thing which a forceful person said, a scurrilous story that satisfies what you’d like to believe was true, etc., the play shows us all up to be human and flawed in ways which we might have forgotten or not accounted for. It brings attention to the social divides in the way that some groups reacted to the debates, and therefore how very little other social groups were equipped to deal with the sudden howling rift that opened up. In fact they did not expect it, because some of them did not (and seemingly still don’t) understand how it came to be. This is the kind of play that illuminates everything that any ‘metropolitan elite’ (if there is such a thing) hasn’t factored in, has ignored, and generally knows very little about. As such it is performing a vital function, in bringing something rarely seen to the stage for everyone to look at and evaluate. And all whilst making us laugh! No mean feat I’d say.
Crucially, the play does not take sides nor does it have a ‘solution’ or even a prescription for action. Instead, it does that most difficult of things, it puts a tender probing doctor’s hand on the jagged wound that the divide opened up in society, and shows us – with gentleness but firmness in turns – what it is, how it came about, and how it still separates us, whether workmates, colleagues, classmates, friends or families. In a sense, the play passes no judgement, and this is just as well, because, as a member of the audience, one could only guess at the political allegiances or preferences of the others in the venue. Laughter at the jokes and squirming at the potential violence of various moments seemed to occur across the board. And this I would say, was the play’s great strength – as great a strength as their usual excellent writing and sharp dialogue, the consummate acting and next-to-impossibly-quick changes of character as a tiny cast play very different roles.
It wasn’t a comfortable evening, despite the humour and vitality of the piece. It wasn’t perhaps an evening that might change someone’s mind either way on either side. But, and I think this is incredibly important, it opened up, in the venue that night, the possibility of dialogue. Rather than hate filled cat calling across a street, it made with quiet confidence, a space in the mind whereby each side could think of the other as neither mad nor monsters, but as people at least something like themselves. And that is always the first step to any resolution of any conflict. I think this play was more than ‘good or bad’ (though as it happens, it was slick, well timed, well acted, good solid theatre), it was performing a critical function – this was (a rarity) vital theatre that needed to be made. Theatre from the frontline. And that surely, is the most challenging and laudable of all.
by S.V. Wolfland
of Widsith & Deor Theatre / EVA Studios