Until last Thursday, the best thing I’d ever seen on stage involved Philip Schofield in a loincloth. I also don’t tend to go and see things more than once. Then ‘My Country’ happened.
When my friend Jenni asked me if I wanted to go and see a play about Brexit as she had a spare ticket, my original response was a resounding no. I don’t really *do* politics. I vote, I voted in last years’ Brexit kerfuffle, and I believe in what I’m voting for, but that’s where my affinity with politics ends. I’m someone who doesn’t really watch the news and I never feel as well educated as other people when it comes to discussing politics. But I accepted the free ticket offer to see ‘My Country’ at Leicester’s Curve theatre for two reasons – one, it was a free ticket to something and I was skint. Two, as I’m trying to do new things this year, ‘see a random play with a political bent to it’ definitely counted as a new thing.
And thank goodness I saw it. In the days following the Brexit vote of last year, a team from the National Theatre spoke to a series of people nationwide to hear their views on our country. The interviews provided honest, emotional, funny and extreme viewpoints and the wonderful Carol Ann Duffy collated them into 80 minutes of pure genius.
I’m a bit shit at writing reviews (as you might have gathered from that ‘Hamlet’ one I did) so this is less a review, more a collection of my thoughts. There have only ever been a couple of things I’ve seen on stage that have enamoured me so much. One was ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ – to be fair, I was eight and it was my first time seeing a proper West End musical at the London Palladium. It also featured the aforementioned Philip Schofield, who until then I had only seen in a broom cupboard with his hand up Gordon the Gopher. ‘My Country’ shot to the top of my ‘best things I’ve ever seen list’.
It’s not flashy. It doesn’t have special effects. It’s essentially seven people in a room. The simple plot is that Britannia (Penny Layden) has called a meeting to listen to her people ahead of the Brexit vote – Caledonia (Stuart McQuarrie), Cymru (Christian Patterson – who now follows me on Twitter, the legend), East Midlands (Seema Bowri, getting a huge cheer from the Leicester audience every time some local landmark was mentioned … Feast India, anyone?), North East (Laura Elphinstone), Northern Ireland (Cavan Clarke) and the South West (Adam Ewan). A passionate debate rages as these highly talented actors bring to life, verbatim, the speeches of real people of the UK, from both sides of the vote.
Although obviously a political piece, it seems to have something for everyone. Hilarity runs alongside the emotion (and f**k me, it’s emotional). Irish dancing, ‘My Little Pony’, something about the Angel of the North being “twatted” (apologies if that’s a huge misquote), somebody doing a “jobbie” in Britannia’s helmet, whisky drinking, an amazingly choreographed routine to ‘Under the Moon of Love’ and the *best* Boris Johnson impression you will ever see outside of the man himself.
The play isn’t designed to come down on one side of the debate or the other, or to change the way you think about it all. What is does is present both sides of the argument in an intelligent, compassionate and actually enjoyable way. I laughed, I cried, I wish to hell Cavan Clarke could teach me his smooth Michael Flatley moves.
There are a few dates left to see ‘My Country’, and I know I’m going to try and go at least once more. Please beg, steal or buy a ticket. I promise you, it’s worth it.
**Dates can be found following the link on ‘The Links’ page.