Thursday, 1 June 2017

Brexit - The Dramaturgy: Chris Bryant @ Edfringe 2017

Strong & Stable Productions presents:
Brexit - The Musical® 
EU lawyer Chris Bryant finds the solution to Brexit in a satirical musical comedy featuring BoJo and (possibly) a Plan.

Written by Chris Bryant  
Directed by Bronagh Lagan
C Venues, C1, 2 – 28 Aug 2017 (not 15th), 18:55 (20.05)
A brand new all-singing, U-turning musical extravaganza, this political satire follows the omnishambles of Brexit from the early days of power grabbing following the EU referendum, through to our triggers, snaps and Junckers of the present day.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Unsurprisingly, given the subject matter, the fallout from the Brexit referendum inspired this show.  So much that happened in the first few weeks gave rise to comic potential, from Jeremy Corbyn having to cancel his trip to Glastonbury and Andrea Leadsom’s hapless entry into front-line politics through to the tinfoil hat UKIP conspiracies that MI5 was going to have a team of spies erasing their leave votes if they just used pencils!  Also, in a therapeutic way, writing the show was a good way to use comedy and song to address some of the more serious and frustrating points – the endless lies, the lack of a plan.  

The initial concept of the show came very quickly – there is a plan for Brexit after all and our characters have to go on a mission to find it.  This arose from a combination of things: the fact there clearly was no plan in real life, the disappearance of many of the key players from the coalface, the UKIP conspiracies on social media and message boards that it was all part of some great big conspiracy to keep us in Europe.  From this I came up with the idea – what if I could write a show in which there is this great big conspiracy and we see all the comings and goings behind the scenes.  From that, the plot took shape very quickly and the songs followed almost immediately.  

Brexit took over my life in so many ways in the last 2 years (by day, I’m an EU lawyer advising clients on it) and very quickly writing the musical became a form of therapy for dealing with what was happening!

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely, and the more novel the performance the better way of generating public discussion.  For example, our aim is that a jaunty “11 o’clock number” like “Lies, Lies, Lies” in our show should get people reflecting on the repeated lies that politicians told during the referendum campaign far more effectively than a serious blog (of which there have been many) could.  

Using catchy rhyming couplets to highlight some of the points that were repeated as facts (it went way beyond the numbers on the bus!) will hopefully make those points more memorable and get people talking about them.  If we achieve that, we’ve been successful!

How did you become interested in making performance?

I was brought up to love musicals and for the last few years have turned to writing them, more as a hobby than anything serious.  By day, I’m an EU lawyer and have spent the last couple of years advising almost non-stop on Brexit.  A flippant comment from a friend immediately after the referendum that I should write Brexit the Musical put the seed of the idea into my head and it spiralled from there.  Within weeks, the show was taking shape, the first songs were written and I’d applied for a trademark for the name!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

It was important for me that this was a full book musical with a plot and characters that the audience can care about, rather than simply a revue full of skits with obvious caricatures.  I mapped out the book of the musical very carefully.  
From there the songs essentially fell into place and almost wrote themselves.  Given the topicality of the subject matter, time was of the essence, so I had to use every possible moment to write – often setting myself tasks of writing the first draft of a verse to a particular song on my phone during tube journeys!  The characterization was really important too.  

I was fascinated by the idea of having Boris Johnson seek his redemption for what he did in the referendum campaign, and centred the plot around this quest, tying it in with his search for the plan.  It gives him and the show much more depth than simply being the standard almost cartoon-like buffoon.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes, although this is the first that I’ve actually put out there.  In a musical, I think it’s essential to care about the key characters and this show is no different.  

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Most of all, fun!  They should laugh, smile and come out of the show feeling positive and upbeat, even if only temporarily before they remember it’s fiction!  The show also has a heart – the audience should really feel for Boris and get behind him on his quest!

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

The audience will be immediately drawn into Boris’ quest to find the plan and share every step of the journey with him.  From an early point, the audience knows what they’re in for with the show.  Will he find the plan?  If he does, what is it?  Everything in the show takes us along this journey.  

For the political geeks out there, there are alternative explanations all the way through for why certain events occurred.  Where was George Osborne when he disappeared from the public eye for days after the referendum?  Why did Boris decide not to stand for Prime Minister?  Why did the government appeal Gina Miller’s case to the Supreme Court when they were so clearly going to lose?  

Writer Chris Bryant is a lawyer advising clients on the potential fallout of Brexit. Now he’s written a musical about it. Brexit – The Musical® lifts the lid on the (potentially) real story of what’s been going behind the scenes in Westminster since the EU referendum. Somewhere out there, there’s a plan for Brexit. There’s just one small hitch – its writer has amnesia and no-one else knows where it is. But there’s a copy out there and it’s up to our hero, Boris Johnson, to find it.      
Devastated by his monumental cock-up of actually winning the referendum, finding the plan is the only way for Boris to gain redemption and save the nation from Brexit. Ably assisted by his sidekick, Govey, our hero’s mission brings him into contact with many colourful characters – recently retired Dave and Sam, ambitious Andrea, depressed Jeremy and the strong & stable wannabe dictator, Theresa. 
Can they find the plan before it’s too late? 
With original songs and book by Chris Bryant, and featuring a full professional cast and live band, Brexit –   The Musical takes C Venues on a quest to find out what Brexit really means. 
Chris Bryant said, “Everyone reacted to the Brexit referendum in different ways.  For me, the most obvious response was to write a musical about it.  As a lawyer specialising in this area, Brexit has been a huge part of my life over the last 2 years. There was something quite therapeutic about then being able to turn it into song!  With everything that’s happened, it was just screaming out for a bit of musical theatre treatment!”
Lawyer & (now) musical theatre writer Chris Bryant is a partner in the Antitrust & Competition team based in Berwin Leighton Paisner’s London and Brussels offices. He specialises in EU law and has been advising extensively on Brexit ever since the prospect of a referendum was first raised. For his full legal biography, please visit: 
@brexitmusical | #BrexitMusical |
Running Time: 70 minutes | Suitable for ages 12+
Company Information
Written by Chris Bryant
Directed by Bronagh Lagan 
General Management by Theatrical Management Solutions

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