To stay or not to stay?

BOLDtext Playwrights took on the complicated issue of Brexit in our two-part show, Eurotrashed, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre last week, funded by Arts Council England.

My fellow curator Helen Kelly and I insisted on the added excitement of some Post-Show Debates.
“Let’s get people debating the issues,” I cried. “There might be a fight!”
“We can ask the Rep to provide Security,” added Helen brightly.

The others eyed us with more than a glimmer of cynicism. “People’d rather debate football in the bar…” muttered the Doubters.

But we persisted, obsessed with our dream that Eurotrashed would be about MORE than theatre:
“We’ll help people decide how to vote.  It will be an EVENT!” I cried.
“It will be TWO EVENTS,” added Helen brightly, reminding us it was on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Doubters blinked. 

But we were right.  Our plays, directed by Bob Eaton and performed by Jenny Stokes, Jade Samuels and Rich Stokes, raised all the tricky issues, wrestled furiously with them, then pinned them into submission or set them free – depending of course on the playwright’s complex dramatic intention. (Or how pissed-off they were feeling when they wrote it.)
Then the Post-Show Debate commenced. On Tuesday night, the aptly-named sociologist Dan Whisker took the chair, while Liberal Democrat Lee Dargue dashed across the city to host our debate on Wednesday. People spoke passionately about Project Fear (on all sides) and the contradictory claims exploding from both Ins and Outs. Lots of very clever, well-informed people admitted they had no idea how to vote.

In the end, I don’t know if we helped them make up their minds – or whether our range of fine-balanced, thought-provoking plays just injected more indecision into people’s heads. Because, let’s face it, the choice is not a simple one.

On the plus side, we got a lovely REVIEW and we did actually have Security…in the form of a well-built, tough-looking bloke who turned up in hi-vis attire, helpfully labelled ‘Crowd Control’.  Helen thought maybe he’d taken a wrong turn on Broad Street but I knew he was ours. He scanned the foyer wistfully for loud-mouthed Remain thugs or loitering Leave louts – but no such luck. The best we could offer him was the odd, smirking Leicester fan (Helen’s pal) and a few sulky Villa supporters (Steve and his mate Dave), plus the usual out-of-London mockery of Boris – but no actual fisticuffs. However hotly-felt and passionately held were their political views in the debates, our audience simply weren’t up for a mid-week brawl in the Rep foyer. Oh well. Better luck next time.

Liz John, May 2016

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