Review: Miss Brexit, Camden People’s Theatre

How else to explore the impact of Brexit but through a cut-throat take on Miss Congeniality?! Miss Brexit is illustrative and impactful at Camden People’s Theatre

“This time I have a bell”

One of the most painfully ironic aspects of the British citizenship tests that those who seek to move here are forced to undergo is that you do seriously wonder how many of the questions British people would actually get right. This, and other forms of performative Britishness, lies at the heart of Miss Brexit, nominally a comedy riffing off of beauty pageants but at the same time, a biting satire on the brutal experiences of uprooting one’s life to another country, particularly in the post-Brexit climate.

With hints of Cabaret and zealously guarding the crown jewels, our MC for the night is the limber George Berry, equally flirtatious and firm-handed as he marches the contest on, round through round. 5 Europeans are competing for the chance to stay in the UK but can they jump through the requisite hoops? A tongue-in-cheek fashion parade, those pesky citizenship questions and a series of increasingly ridiculous “Tests of Britishness”, competitive tea-pouring anyone? Or reciting Shakespeare with a carrot between your teeth (strictly for enunciation purposes…)?!

This aspect of the show is inspired and frequently very, very funny indeed. The introduction for each competitor (Maxence Marmy, Isabel Mulas, Ricardo Ferreira, Alba Villaitodo and Shivone Dominguez Blascikova) plays beautifully off national stereotypes with some very witty physical comedy. Switzerland, Italy, Portugal and Spain are in the house but with two Spanish contestants, one is quick to identify as Catalan actually and the other as part Slovakian and part Cuban as well as part Spanish, an acute reminder that identities are rarely as clean-cut as some insist they must be.

With some light audience participation roped into some of these rounds, it is all very amusing as it teeters on the absurd. Interweaved through this is a suite of original songs (music by Harvey Cartlidge) that explores elements of each migrant performer’s journey to the UK and their experience on arrival. These aren’t always as effective as they could be, perhaps needing a tighter focus for their impact to be as keenly felt as they should rightly be (I can well understand the reluctance to edit such personal storytelling though).

The final third of the show does manage to hit home hard though. Rounding up the cumulative effect of the whole process highlights how cruel and unusual it can be. This holy grail of assimilation standing at odds with the richness that multiculturalism can bring to a society, especially when its epitome is the queue for peeping the Queen’s coffin, rightly lampooned here. Alejandro Postigo and Amaia Mugica’s production is rightly as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, reminding us that if we can’t laugh at least a little bit about Brexit, we’ll just cry.

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