Julius Caesar said “…Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true.” It goes without saying that we all care about the NHS, and likewise we all wish Great Britain were in fact still great. You don’t need a qualification in political theory to see that if you run a campaign which plugs these two simple truths, you can guarantee a pretty large turnout by even those who profess not to be interested in politics.
The Brexit Club by Substance & Shadow Theatre Company is set in a pickle factory over a couple of days last June. Our old friends Melvin Gould and his cousin Leonard Silver work there together, and are wondering how to vote in the EU Referendum. Thus the scene is set for a conflict of politics and ideology, but maybe influenced by a couple of other characters who have their own agendas. Midge Mullin and Nathan Simpson are more than capable.
Not only do they reprise their roles as Melvin and Leonard, but they seamlessly transform into playing the other characters as well. Aided by a minimalist but ingenious soundtrack, you accept the transformations as totally natural. Since it is set in the day of the actual vote, there is a lot of propaganda about, and our two hapless but undecided heroes have to make a decision based on the best information they can get. Needless to say, there turns out to be unforeseen consequences for both of them.
A play like this can’t possibly have a cliffhanger ending; we all know what happened. What this does achieve, and magnificently, is a dissection of what makes people think and vote the way they do. On one level we have a rollicking two-handed comedy getting many laugh-out-loud moments from the entire audience. Simultaneously, it is reminding us of some of our darker racist motivations lurking just beneath the surface.
The script by Rosie and Mitch Mullin (with additional material by Nathan Simpson) is absolutely sparkling, and delivered with wit and panache. The accompanying sound effects keep you totally immersed in the moment. It’s a great piece of theatre by an increasingly confident local theatre company. Highly recommended.