Should Britain leave Britain? This was the question asked by the Prime Minister in a new comic satire, ‘F*!@ing Hell’, written by Natasha Saunders. A strength of this production was that despite a relationship to current political figures (e.g. Bart Bonson), and links to past events, this was not an attempt to stage the campaign of 2016 as a historical event. This gave the production the freedom to add in an unrequited love story and push the characterisation to extremes which, in my opinion, gave a truer sense of the feeling of playground politics I felt in the real campaign. If you want to find out how bananas, socks, a gorilla and a spider fit into the question, then you need to go and see it!
The mocking tone of the production was set from the start, as we waited for the production to begin with the music of ‘Rule, Britannia!’. The production was complemented well by the minimal set of alphabet boxes; as seen in the marketing campaign, it added to the feeling of babies playing politics.
An extremely weak, childish Prime Minister played well by Daniel Ergas appears on stage. He is the exact antithesis to the strong leading nation the song purports ‘Britannia’ to be. The Prime Minister appears lost in what he is trying to say, and as the production progresses, he appears more interested in Oreos than politics. Luke Richardson also deserves mention as Bart Bonson. He characterises well the journey of Bart’s unease on the idea of Brepature. His private moment of doubt, “Wait, we are Westminster” (i.e we can’t f*ck ourselves), develops into a confident “Fuck Britain!” as he speaks in front of adoring crowds. His ‘friend’ Mick is central to this change in Bart, and Alexander Grassam Rowe captures the sympathy we have at times for a character who confusingly manages at once to both know and not know what he is doing. Pip Lang must also be praised for her characterisation of Terry, appearing to be the only voice of reason among the politicians. Ellie Harrington and Ava also must be credited for adding to the chaotic and childish nature of the Brepature campaign.
This play did not set out to proclaim anything radical. Instead, it serves to provide relief from the reality of British politics in the current moment. The world these characters inhabit means that as an audience we can’t take it all too seriously: as Terry tells Mick, he should have known socks are a serious issue. Without spoiling the production, the end makes clear the point of this dramatic enterprise. In writing the production, Saunders can control what happens, who is judged and how. The play provides us with an opportunity to laugh at these on stage politicians, because we know the writer is in control. However, laughing at politics in the real world, when we do not know that that it will all end in a neat hour and that politicians are making decisions which affect our lives, is just too dangerous.