Brexit. The UK Referendum vote to leave the European Union — Brexit — took place on 23 June 2016, and it still has a profound effect on me and mine. Brexit makes me watch millions of hours of news television; Brexit makes me listen obsessively to the radio; Brexit makes me buy newspapers again; Brexit makes me angry with politicians (of all kinds); Brexit makes me spend more on trips abroad; Brexit makes my shopping more expensive; Brexit makes me check my bank account details more often; Brexit makes me apologize to my friends; Brexit makes me unreasonably hopeful; Brexit makes me totally pessimistic; Brexit makes me dread going to hospital; Brexit makes me long for an au pair again; Brexit makes my head ache; Brexit gives me stomach ache; Brexit sends me to the toilet; Brexit darkens the glass in my windows; Brexit makes the water poisonous; Brexit has caused urban foxes to die out; Brexit will lead to the extinction of the planet.
Brexit has also spoilt my theatre-going. It has forced me to watch Rufus Norris’s execrable My Country; A Work in Progress (National, 2017). Unforgivable. Brexit has means that any new play is suddenly all about only one thing. So I can’t watch Stephen Laughton’s Screens (Theatre 503, 2016), Mike Bartlett’s Albion (Almeida, 2017) or Barney Norris’s Nightfall (Bridge, 2018) without listening for mentions of Brexit-related dialogues. But these plays are about so much more. Even plays that were staged before June 2016 — Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen (Royal Court, 2015) or Stef Smith’s Human Animals (Royal Court, 2016) — now seems to be about Brexit. And as for revivals of the 1980s plays about the Northern working class — such as Jim Cartwright’s Road or Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too — yep, they are all about Brexit. I’ve avoided Chris Bryant’s Brexit the Musical, staged by Strong and Stable Productions, which ran at Edinburgh in August 2017, but Brexit has spoilt even revivals of old classics: William Congreve’s The Way of the World or George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. After June 2016, even these plays are about Brexit. Aargh. And as for the Greek tragedies, let’s not go there. Brexit has even made me read Bertolt Brecht again: “In the dark times/ Will there also be singing?/ Yes, there will also be singing./ About the dark times.”
Brexit has spoilt my breakfast and ruined my dinner. It’s made my wine bitter. It has also become everyone’s universal excuse: Oh dear, I’ve lost my job — blame Brexit. Or, maybe my wages have gone down — blame Brexit. I can’t get social housing — blame Brexit. I can’t get a doctor’s appointment — blame Brexit. Look, prices have gone up — blame Brexit. Little Tom can’t get into primary school — blame Brexit. His older sister Charlotte won’t be accepted by the best secondary school — blame Brexit. What about child care? Blame Brexit. My mother spent a long waiting time at A&E in the local hospital — blame Brexit. The price of beer has gone up — blame Brexit. My internet speed is too slow — blame Brexit. My wife no longer loves me — blame Brexit. My children hate me — blame Brexit. My cat has died — blame Brexit.
Yes, I really think that Brexit has ruined my life. And it’s not over yet…
Brexit plays can be seen at various venues all over the country, probably for ever.
This article appeared in Aleks Sierz on October 1, 2019, and has been reposted with permission.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.