My Country; a work in progress,
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow,
At Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh,
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Opening in Glasgow just as Theresa May was triggering Article 50, the National Theatre (of Great Britain’s) response to Brexit made a timely debut on the Scottish stage. Entitled My Country; a work in progress, the piece is a verbatim drama created by the UK’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and the NT’s director Rufus Norris.
The work is dedicated to the memory of Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered by neo-Nazi terrorist Thomas Mair during the EU referendum. That dedication is, sad to say, the only really good thing about what is a truly terrible evening’s theatre.
A 21st-century Britannia (who knows she looks stupid in her plumed helmet, shield and trident) convenes a meeting of the nations and regions of the UK. Britannia speaks for the leading (England-based) politicians of the Brexit debate (most notably impersonating Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage), while the others speak the words of random citizens.
Duffy and Norris pepper the vox pops with jokes and a few songs related to the countries and regions concerned. The fact remains, however, it is entirely unimaginative and anti-theatrical to simply assemble a bunch of quotes and stick them under such as headings as “immigration” and “identity”.
Like a work of undergraduate sociology, the piece reveals such gems as: many residents of Derry don’t feel British and carry an Irish passport; a lot of Scottish people want independence; and some people in the UK talk like a Daily Express editorial when you ask them for their views on immigration.
One citizen’s observation that Theresa May “will make a good Maggie Thatcher” offers a rare moment of satirical pleasure. Otherwise, this 80-minute show is shallow, redundant and intellectually insulting. Forget about Brexit – I wanted to run for the exit.
For a complete list of tour dates, visit: nationaltheatre.org.uk
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on April 2, 2017
© Mark Brown