Cruel Britannia, Lion & Unicorn Theatre - Review

The Lion & Unicorn Theatre has had a long association with fringe theatre productions. However Cruel Britannia at the venue, which is produced by Sharon Burrell and Ceri Lothian, takes a foray into the world of comedy and political satire.

The first half of the evening (which is the same on all six nights of its run) consists of a series of sketches written by Stuart Benson and Gabriel Jones. Some, like the 'turkey sketch' have obvious connections to Brexit and the arguments that have led many to believe propaganda, regardless of facts. Then there are a very funny series of sketches related to new prime minister in office. Only instead of being from the Oxbridge fraternity as is often the case, the incumbent premier's from 'up north' and he's here to redress the mistakes from previous administrations. And he doesn't care if he 'can/should' do it'...

In addition, there are sketches of a more surreal bent, as the extreme lengths that go into media marketing are satirised. The Pigeon Bois sketch, which is performed by Izzy Daws and Kelly Griffiths, is especially funny too.

Each night has a different set of comedians performing in the second half and on the night that I attended Arna Spek and Maddy Joy were performing. Both of these female comedians were very different from each other with a distinct flavour, but very enjoyable.

As a Dutch woman who has lived in the UK for several years, Spek's observations about getting the vagaries of learning a language at school versus how it's used in everyday life hit the nail on the head. Whether it was intentional, I'm not sure, but the way she was able to blend a personal anecdote with perspective on Europe's colonial legacy was subtle, but well-observed. Spek has an endearing stage presence, and her ability to laugh at herself and life's absurdities will keep her in good stead.

Joy's fascination with the actor David Tennant and Doctor Who in general, provided much of the material for her set. A recent acting graduate, Joy incorporated 'the joys' of living back at home with parents with having a mother who is just as 'obsessive' with another David (Bowie). Talking about dates with real people led to an amusing section of alternative dating apps for niche consumers. Female fans of sci-fi and 'geek culture' are nothing new, but it was refreshing to see a comedian on stage (of any sex) who has embraced it so readily. Of course it could all just be just her stage persona, but my B.S. detector doesn't think so. Enjoyable regardless.

© Michael Davis 2016

Cruel Britannia runs at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 18th September 2016.


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