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My Country: A Work In Progress - Birmingham Rep

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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A wry look at Brexit
With the vote to leave the European Union such a momentous decision for the UK, it was only a matter of time before Brexit plays began hitting our stage. And My Country: A Work in Progress is an early contender. Created by National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, it's a tongue-in-cheek look at the process which resulted in Brexit and the voices behind that decision.

The play features the mythical figure of Britannia now dressed in a business suit calling on the different regions of the UK to join together and 'listen to the voices' of the people of Britain. The meeting is set on the night of the EU referendum so while the country awaits the results from the polls, the different parts of the UK hear the reasons behind those votes.

My Country: A Work in Progress
My Country: A Work in Progress

A National Theatre production, My Country follows a research project in which people the length and breadth of the UK were interviewed about the country, their towns, their populations, their politicians and their lives. And their responses make up much of the focus of the show with the different regions sharing the views taken from these individuals.

Many are voices and opinions we've heard – some are reasoned, some fearful, some optimistic, some fatalistic but all with an opinion. In some cases we can put the views to a face or a name in others they are simply voices.

Interspersed with the nation's comments are soundbites and pearls of wisdom made by politicians during and following the Brexit decision. Taken in this context we see the breezy and yet unfounded confidence of David Cameron, the bombast of Nigel Farage and the frequently bizarre comments by Boris Johnson.

Penny Layden is Britannia, a figure who begins the evening with joy at the bringing together of the nation and yet ends it in apparent despair as she discovers just how divided that country has become. Layden also has the plum job of role playing the politicians and her Boris Johnson is just hilarious. The rest of the cast take on the different regions with Stuart McQuarrie as a sometimes querulous Caledonia, Seema Bowri as a frequently embittered East Midlands and Laura Elphinstone as a self-deprecating North East. Of course, being in Birmingham, we have to ask what happened to the West Midlands?

My Country is very much an exploratory work which is perhaps not surprising bearing in mind so much about Brexit is still unknown. It's a snapshot of a country at a certain time and the production is quick to stress that for generations to come this will simply be one of a series of events in British history. As such it's also very much a drama of its time – and will no doubt be followed by a good many other Brexit-inspired works.

Currently on stage at Birmingham Repertory Theatre's Studio, My Country moves to Warwick Arts Centre between May 25-27.
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Why? Brexit on the stage
When: until 20 May
Phone: 0121 236 4455
Where: Birmingham Rep
Cost: from £15
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