Coast to Coast Theatre Company are a young group formed initially from UEA students in 2017 who are building a growing reputation for skilled and engaging new works. Their productions ‘About Lester’, ‘Nowt as Queer as Folk’ and ‘Peddling’ all impressed this reviewer greatly, so I was keen to see what they would make of the international farce that is Brexit.

They chose to present six monologues grouped together on the night we were supposed to be wrenched from the bosom of Europe – March 29th. However there is a striking difference between the capabilities of Her Majesty’s Government and of Coast to Coast. Unlike our useless Parliament this young team delivered on date and time exactly what they had promised giving a full Norwich Arts Centre house six contrasting but engaging vignettes of life in Brexit Britain.

A rather giddy audience (considering the lack of a real event to mourn or celebrate) greeted the first piece with great enthusiasm. ‘The Half Naked Civil servant’ postulated a scenario whereby in 2029 a newly elected LibDem Prime Minister (nobody else wanted the job) seeks to re-enter the EU, while avoiding reference to his own fetishistic inclinations. Written by Tom Rowntree this featured Keelan Swift-Stalley as the hapless centrist thrust into office. Keelan is a convincing reminder to me of what LibDems are all about. This is not always good.

We moved on to ‘Baggage’ by Freya Bennet, with Alex Hayes pondering a future bereft of either English stability or a good relationship with her parents. Packing for a trip to Madrid allows reflection on the grim realities of the consequences of Brexit and the division within families that it entails. While packing for travel Alex Hayes shows us how the age-based divisions of Brexit are unpacking family stabilities.

‘Empires’ by Zoe Callow takes us back a bit to a previous moment of British self examination as we see the relationship between Nelson and Emma, Lady Hamilton, laid bare. Priya Appleby (pictured above) is mesmerising as Lady H giving her side of a story known from the perspective of the populist histories that we have always been given. Priya gives us a moving and elegant, eloquent account of just how Nelson’s paramour may have felt about the outcome of Trafalgar. She wears a magnificent hooped dress and sings Britannia in a heart-stopping moment as her tale unfolds.

After the break Michael Bernardin presents a commercial traveller who finds that nothing works after the dreaded day, most particularly his Powerpoint presentation is stuffed by separation as he tries to set out social management tools for a newly separated mainland European audience. Scripted and directed by Steve Waters this gives a taste of the confusions ahead as we are separated from our political partners of forty years.

‘Scapegoats’ by Molly Naylor takes us right back to the heart of Brexitism as a drunken dysfunctional lad shouts at the world while trying to figure out why all his mates are no longer there. Thomas Gutteridge gets a lot of laughs as he delivers the thoughts of a drunken oaf with great timing.

The final monologue ‘The Break Up’ by James McDermott is a poignant piece where Liam Purshouse makes a plea to his about-to-be-ex partner to reconsider. A touching mini drama with a well timed delivery that sets a wistful tone for the end of what was going to be Brexit day.

The diversity of the six works makes for an enjoyable programme, but what really makes this company stand out is the sheer quality of their productions. They work hard to make convincing and credible drama that suggests levels of experience impossible for such a young team. If we ever do get to conclude Brexit and make the ghastly mistake of leaving the EU they would do well to repeat this entertaining evening.

© Julian Swainson 2019



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