In among the delights of Buzz: A New Musical, (Fat Rascal Theatre), Trump’d (Two Thirds Comedy) and 2016 the Musical (Evolution Theatre), Brexit: The Musical is a member of the not-uncommon satirical-political-musical species at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017. Perhaps gentle political protesters of the creative sort are discovering the power of wrapping up their thoughts on the state of the world into rhyming couplets and delivering them through jazz-spread hands. Perhaps the wide-spread appeal of these musicals to the left-of-centre Fringe crowd (Brexit had a full house and a returns queue the night I was watching) encourages aspiring creatives to transform their one-person monologues and contemporary dance pieces into the delightfully digestible musical format. Either way, political musicals (with a small and a large “p”) are taking off, and taking the Fringe by storm.
And this is for good reason. Brexit: The Musical was funny, slick, well-acted, and very well sung. The tunes were catchy and the lyrics on point and delivered with determinedly rigorous diction ensuring our full comprehension even over a full band including bass, two sets of keys, flute, sax, and kit. Boris Johnson – that unending source of satire – was played outstandingly well by an actor identifiable by a hugely enthusiastic blond wig suspiciously resembling a mop, a voice which bore an uncanny resemblance to the real thing, and British-themed underwear. Boris’ British-flag socks (apologies for giving the game away) were joined in the ranks of acutely deliberate footwear by Michael Gove’s fluffy animal slippers and Jeremy Corbyn’s single wellington boot. These small touches lifted the whole production from a fun and occasional thoughtful anti-Brexit recording of Brexit into an immaculate and stand-out show.
There were even glimpses of humanity behind some of the biggest Tory baddies. Theresa May is presented as cajoled into leadership by the Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee double act of incompetency “Govey-boy” and Boris, and allowed one almost-sympathy-inducing song “Bloody Difficult Woman”. The line “if I’m a difficult woman it’s only because I have to deal with bloody difficult men” raised a cheer from the audience who’d originally booed her on entry. Theresa May’s voice was as high-quality as the rest of them (these were trained singers and actors not, as is occasionally the case with Fringe-musicals, actors trying their luck at musical vocalisation) – but her physical presence on stage was noticeably more awkward than the swaggering Dave, the capering Michael and the gliding “Sammy Cam”. I wasn’t sure if this was deliberate, or a symptom of a mildly less-confident actor – either way it worked as a casting decision, as Theresa May’s stilted movements and iron-grey bob formed a sharp contrast to the shocking pink outfit for Andrea Leadsom who tap-danced around stage singing “Mother Knows Best” and unsurprisingly ended up out of the leadership competition as a result.
The show ends lamenting the lack of a plan for the future: the song “Brexit means Brexit means Brexit” reiterating the hollow nature of the illusive Plan that George Osborne had supposedly drawn up before losing his mind in the heat of the referendum – “he thinks he’s a newspaper editor or something”. It’s funny, and it’s horribly true. But it turns out that there is a plan to deal with some of the political atrocities of the present day. The plan is to make musicals. At least there’s a strong and stable supply of laughs to rely on in the future.
Brexit the Musical was performed at C venues as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.