Like the protagonists who are met with uncertainty about leaving the EU, Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky seem unsure of whether they want their play to be a farcical The Thick Of It style satire or an acerbic Black Adder-esque repartee. Like the EU negotiations it hopes to mock, the result ends up satisfying neither of these urges.
Brexit tells the story of newly appointed Tory leader and Prime Minister Adam Masters (David Benson) whose plan to unite the leavers and remainers in his party is to do absolutely nothing at all. The Brexit at-all-costs side of the Tory party is brilliantly portrayed by Thom Tuck in a Rees-Mogg like role that brings some of the biggest laughs. Jessica Fostekew shines as a Europhile Conservative who is constantly fire-fighting with the national press on her phone as she enters scenes – it’s a fun bit, but outstays its welcome. In fact, that’s something that characterises the entire play.
Brexit, which was first performed last August, is beginning to feel very dated. There’s no surprise and little hilarity be found as Prime Minister Masters plots the exact same course we saw our soon-to-be ex-Head of State plot over the last year. It might’ve seemed like unimaginable and cutting satire to Khan and Salinsky during the writing process, but the daily briefing on Sky News is more farcical than the contents of Brexit. There’s still fun to be had – the simultaneous negotiations with both sides of the Tory party are good fun, as are the discussions with pragmatic Eurocrat played by Margaret Cabourn-Smith. But the dialogue isn’t as sharp as you get from the likes of Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, or Armando Lannucci. This is at its most obvious when bristly spin-doctor Paul Connell (Adam Astill, rounding out the cast) is on-stage and counselling – and insulting – the Prime Minister. If you’ve been watching current events closely over the last three years since the referendum, this satirical production is unlikely to surprise. There are some giggles to be had, but those expecting belly laughs or the kind of razor-sharp dialogue in The Thick Of It will be disappointed.