The show's co-writer and musical director, Anthony Gray, reflects on the sentiment behind 'A Very Brexit Musical'.
When Molly and I decided we were going to write a show focusing on Brexit, the country was in the beginnings of the aftermath of the referendum campaigns. We’d seen all the well-trodden stereotypes of both campaigns and the satirical news outlets were making the most of these. But they had missed something. There were the standard political points and the general liberal consensus of the result being hugely damaging for the arts industry. In some quarters, the focus of satire was on the individual events that shaped both campaigns, but the clear question which wasn’t being asked was, ‘How did this result, and this toxic political landscape, come to pass?’
That was always the aim of our show: to present one angle from which this question could be answered. This is the media’s representation of politics, politicians and assumptions of the public. This is a very important topic in many ways, in the context of the continual existence of the state broadcaster, the BBC and the license fee, alongside the monopoly of news outlets controlled by Rupert Murdoch and very few others.
Of course, the show is silly in many ways. The farcical spy duo of Joris Bohnson and Figel Narage, and the salacious antics of Mheresa Tay are purely to provide comic relief to the story without suggesting any political point in themselves. But the importance of media representations remains central to the show.
In the past three days, both David Davis (who unfortunately doesn’t feature, partly as you can’t swap his name around!) and Boris Johnson have left their cabinet posts over the Chequers agreement. The uproar of this decision, as well as the hugely divided nature of the national conversation about ‘Hard Brexit’, ‘Soft Brexit’, ‘No Deal Brexit’ and a ‘People’s Vote’, has made me feel a real sense of nostalgia when I read lines of the script or hear the show’s music. The show is from a simpler time when the debate wasn’t as vitriolic or so virulent, and this has given me a whole new perspective on it. Cavid Dameron’s speech on the front steps of 10, Downing Street announcing the referendum feels both foreboding, thanks to everything that has since taken place, but also wistful and sentimental.
At Edinburgh, and also (for one night only!) in Norwich, I think the audiences will also feel this nostalgia, and come to think differently not only about Brexit, but about how far we’ve come as a country in this short time. The show does not make political points. It does not choose either Remain or Leave but, especially now, encourages everyone to think about the widespread influence of political discourse, and how we can change our political destiny in such a short space of time.
Of course I want to say thank you to all the cast, crew and band for everything they’ve done so far to help get the show ready for a month in Edinburgh. My thanks go especially to Sam Kirby for all his help rehearsing music with the cast and band, to Helena Fox for doing a wonderful job helping to publicise the show, to Peter Lotts for being not only the fount of all technical knowledge, but a truly calming presence to everyone involved and to Rosa Thomas both for her wonderful choreography and her approachable and caring attitude. Mostly though, I want to thank Molly for balancing a huge amount of the production of the show with the directing of the new cast, the editing of the show for Edinburgh and for agreeing to learn the Keys 3 part that I only finished writing 4 days ago!
I would hugely encourage everyone in Edinburgh during August to come and see the show, not for any political reason, but for an hour of silliness, brilliant acting and singing, and also to reflect on those perilous months of campaigning that have brought us to where we are today. Whatever your political opinions, I hope we can present Brexit in a new light and entertain you along the way!