sat 22/02/2020

Matt Forde, Soho Theatre review - Brexit and beyond | reviews, news & interviews

Matt Forde, Soho Theatre review - Brexit and beyond

Matt Forde, Soho Theatre review - Brexit and beyond

Cogent political analysis

Matt Forde offers intelligent insights into the age of Brexit

Matt Forde sets out his stall in Brexit: Pursued by a Bear from the first line: “We meet in diabolical circumstances.” These aren't good times, he says, with two major leaders in the Western world whose relationship with the truth is merely that of passing acquaintance. Add in the UK's continuing divisions over Brexit, and diabolical seems apt.

We know where Forde is coming from. He's a proud Remainer and Blairite, a former adviser to the Labour Party and a vehement critic of Jeremy Corbyn – who gets it in the neck just as much as Boris Johnson does. 

Forde sees little difference between the two men, mentioning “a populist, racist Brexiteer... and Boris Johnson” – and lays into both as he explains how we got here, and where we may be going next. Well, a hellish future, obviously, but at least he'll make us laugh along the way.

This is not special pleading by a sore loser, though, as Forde forensically analyses why effective opposition is vital to the functioning of democracy, and why a no-deal Brexit and the Northern Ireland “solution” are fundamentally flawed. Fans of his may have heard these sentiments expressed before, but never with so much passion.

This hour, advertised as the comic's “last show as an EU citizen (maybe)”, debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe and some material now appears dated – Rory Stewart's bid to be Conservative Party leader, for example – but elsewhere Forde throws things forward in examining where the US-UK relationship may go next. He imagines the scene at 10 Downing Street when Donald Trump next meets Johnson, now in possession of a thumping majority, and how the two prolix leaders might interact.

Forde is a talented mimic, and all the characters he mentions – including the aforementioned and MPs Richard Burgon, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Francois – are brought vividly to life on stage (Theresa May, for obvious reasons, does not appear here). 

He gets not just their vocal register, but their physical and facial tics too. Johnson is two-fists-clenched bombastic, while Stewart says every word sloooowly, and as if each one has a full stop in between.

Despite a quiet audience and the occasional misstep, which he managed to divert around with gleeful humour, Forde powered through this hour. I've said before that he is the UK's foremost political comic, and on this showing I see no reason to revise that opinion.

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