By Lucy Komisar
Brexit, the decision of Britain to leave the European Union, is the setting for a very clever look at the corruption of politicians on all sides.
Quick explanation: a UK vote in 2016 promoted by the Conservative (Tory) Party led to 52 percent calling for withdrawal from the European Union. Because many thought the EU was enforcing policies against British interests and because some didn‘t want open borders to let outsiders take Brits‘ jobs. Not Middle Easterners but Eastern Europeans, especially Poles, who could travel freely inside the EU.
This play by Robert Khan and Tom Salinskyis at the Edinburgh Fringe is acted by a very professional cast known to British TV viewers. It‘s very good theater, especially for the cognoscenti, though too much inside baseball to stage in the US.
The British Prime Minister, Adam Masters (the fine Timothy Bentinck), is a gray-haired sophisticate. The backdrop is wood paneled walls, a green goose necked lamp on a well-designed wooden desk, traditional and proper.
“Resign!” a woman calls. And then a comment, “All things come to those who wait.”
Masters is leading the Tory government. The Left is divided. There are arguments about doing a “hard Brexit,” meaning with no agreement with the EU. Some want a pro-Euro solution. Masters picks out members who oppose each other and lies to them. This play begins to be credible!
There’s a lot of meaningless blather. Paul Connell (Mike McShane), a senior political consultant, declares, “Brexit is the most complex public policy since the Second World War.”
Trade minister Simon Cavendish (Hal Cruttenden), tough, supercilious, condescending, supports sovereignty against trade.
The newspapers write what they want to believe. Policy shifts frenetically.
Masters declares that “doubt and uncertainty” are the only thing people have to hang onto. Someone asks him, “What is your narrative?” He replies, “I‘m in a panic.”
Chief EU negotiator Helena Brandt (a give-no-quarter Jo Caulfield) in Brussels tells him, “We would insist you join the Euro, abolish the pound.”
Brandt says people see her as true European, and they are content to provide the EU with financial support and not have any influence with how it functions. Well, that’s how current western democracy functions, isn’t it?
She offers Masters the job of High Representative for Climate Change. Sounds good, means little. And that‘s how the EU works.
It’s a well done, cynical take on the EU system. Though this is a satire, director Salinsky makes it quite believable. So, even if you don‘t know the details of how Brexit is moving along, or not, you will recognize the venality of most politicians. They will be bought.
I don’t foresee PM Theresa May selling out for an EU job. But it’s still excellent political soap opera! And not that far from what pretends to be serious political commentary!
“Brexit.” Written by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, directed by Tom Salinsky. Edinburgh Fringe, Pleasance Courtyard, August 2018.