As real-life Brexit chaos continues, Brexit [the play] returns to the King’s Head Theatre for a strictly limited run from 11 June to 6 July 2019. We caught up with co-writer and director Tom Salinsky about the dramatic appeal of politics and his long-time collaboration with Robert Khan. Time to get booking!
The year is 2020, and the 18-month negotiating period for Brexit is now in its fourth year with new Tory Leader and Prime Minister Adam Masters at the helm. He was the only candidate every Tory could agree on, and he has a plan to solve Brexit… if only he could remember it.
The 2019 company are David Benson as PM Adam Masters, Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Jessica Fostekew and returning cast members Adam Astill and Thom Tuck.
Talking to… Tom Salinsky
Writers Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky met at university and have written together ever since. Together Khan and Salinsky co-written works include Coalition, Kingmaker and Impossible. They have also written numerous Doctor Who dramas for Big Finish, most recently Kingdom of Lies starring Peter Davison and Patsy Kensit. Salinksy is also the artistic director of improvisation company The Spontaneity Shop, co-author of the book The Improv Handbook, and he teaches presenting, public speaking and storytelling for corporate clients.
You’ve been writing together since university. How did it start?
We were both active in student union politics. As ever, when the stakes are low, passions run high, and some people would resort to all sorts of underhanded measures to ensure that they were elected to the offices which they imagined they deserved. Some enterprising person or persons even distributed fake satirical versions of the student union paper which mocked candidates in a specific election mercilessly and not too even-handedly. Naturally, we had nothing whatever to do with this.
Describe your writing process.
We generally only meet up to discuss big story points or to do a final pass on a nearly-finished piece. Scripts exist on the page, and we find it easier to trade drafts back and forth via email than to try to explain what we mean verbally. Only occasionally is there a difference of opinion that can’t be resolved (usually we only really dig our heels in on something which is utterly trivial and which no audience would ever notice or care about). In that case, Deborah Frances-White is our Court of Appeal.
Many of your plays centre on politics & politicians. What’s the fascination dramatically?
Ask Shakespeare! Kings, queens, rulers, power. Who gets it, who wants it, who wields it and on whose behalf? There’s lots of juicy stuff there. Also, many of the best character studies hinge on moral choices. Politics shows that starkly because often you end up compromising your principles in order to get something – anything – done.
Do you two share the same politics?
I’m a radical Marxist and Robert is an ultra-right-wing Libertarian. The arithmetic average of these two extremes is a sort of wishy-washy Blairite liberalism.
Why did you want to write about Brexit in particular?
For good or for ill (probably for ill), it will define politics in this country for a generation. Writers of Spitting Image, Yes Minister and The Thick of It could not have imagined a situation where the flagship policy of the ruling party of the day proves so divisive that no one in the House of Commons can actually agree on what it is.
Has the play changed since last year in Edinburgh?
Remarkably, our key predictions all still hold.
Tell us about your cast.
We’re blessed with a truly remarkable group of actors. We’ve long admired David Benson, and we’re thrilled to be able to work with him on this. Margaret Cabourn-Smith can make anything funny; we’ve written stuff with her in mind before but she’s always been busy doing other things. Jessica Fostekew is someone we had in mind for Diana when we first put the play on in August 2018, and I love her energy and her timing. And we already know how good Thom Tuck and Adam Astill are in these roles, as they’re coming back for more.
What’s your prediction for what will happen with the real Brexit?
Sshhhh… spoilers. Come and see the play!
What’s next for your collaboration?
We’re working on a musical for the first time with previous Brexit cast member Pippa Evans (star of Showstopper!) and composer Mark Hodge (Suffrageddon). It’s a very challenging form so expect it to get its premiere any decade now.
Brexit runs from 11 June to 6 July 2019 at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced £18.50-£27.50. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!