“Please, don’t vote for me”
A Hungarian comedian once told of how he had figured out the perfect election campaign: create a party called 'None of Them'. Statistically, it is almost certain that there would be enough disillusioned people to vote them into Parliament. Something similar must have happened to those who googled "what is Brexit?" the day after the referendum.
But how do you win elections in the middle of the sea on one of the Channel Islands? It doesn't really matter which one, since even the priest hired for a funeral takes the wrong island. Here, in the middle of nowhere, the political battle is centred around the one and only swing voter who, truth be told, is not hard to bribe. Meanwhile, the protagonist Norman Beige (Thomas Warwick), sitting on an crowded public bench, realises that he doesn’t want to win the elections. Naturally, he secretly starts to campaign against himself.
Beige was written by Joe McGuchan, the winner of the Footlights Harry Porter Prize 2017. The author's background in sketches and improvisation explains why this comedy is not really a play, but rather a sketch show. If you are not in desperate need of a smooth narrative, the play is enjoyable because of its dark humour and consistently hilarious sketches.
What would happen if political radio shows and advertisements told the truth? Or if there was a 'no-drunk-texting' clause in divorce contracts? Sometimes the sketches find themselves halfway between the familiar and the grotesque; such as the date which, after a few beers, gets to the point of debating the crucial question of whether the word 'croissant' has different meanings in French and in English. The bizarre romanticism of the Channel Islands oozes from almost every dialogue, and the play is framed by left-over German helmets and the background noise of the murmuring ocean.
Beige (Thomas Warwick) is already brilliant in the opening scene, before saying even a single word, sitting on a public bench like an anxious Forrest Gump. Until last night, I hadn't known how many ways nihilism could be expressed on a man's face. Madeleine (Amaya Holman), his political rival, is brilliantly comedic – it's worth watching this show just to see her sublime recitation of Taylor Swift at a funeral. Despite the fact that the lyrics of 'Shake it off ' are officially too stupid for plagiarism, as has recently been declared to be legally binding, the 'Haters gonna hate' line gained a new meaning in this context.
Ann (Chloe Lansley), a troubled political cartoonist, was sweet and funny until the point when she tried unsuccessfully to convince us that she was older than she actually was. In Louisa (Kim Alexander) we find a mature performance as a hopeless campaign manager and ex-wife. The play also has an outstanding supporting cast of Ron (Ed Bankes), Emory (Sam Tannenbaum), Sophie (Claudia Anderson), and the Chorus (Freya Ingram), who play annoying voters, debaters and lobbyists.
The play unfortunately turns from a political comedy into a drama moralising superficially about the meaning of life. Those who wish to see a play with delicate, dark humour will enjoy Beige. But those who are more interested in the meaninging or meaninglessness of life should stay at home, wrap themselves into a warm blanket and read Janne Teller's Nothing.