Brighton Festival review – politics through a domestic lens ★★★★
Brexit and its fallout still an obsession
Written by Veronica Lee in The Arts Desk on May 21st, 2018
Bridget Christie tells us at the top of the show that she is a heterosexual, able-bodied, privileged white female – so why is she feeling so discontented? As she explains with great verbal dexterity in What Now?, it is living in a post-EU referendum world that has made her feel so discombobulated; left and right have no meaning any more, and – like so many British voters – she doesn’t know where her political home is.
The Brexit vote has created some odd bedfellows, she says; it came as a big shock when lap-dancing club owner Peter Stringfellow said he was a fellow Remainer – because he didn’t want to be remembered for the disastrous Leave vote. Although, as Christie points out with delicious sarcasm: “Actually I think he’s more likely to be remembered for the objectification and commodification of women…”
Although it’s an avowedly political show, which references subjects including period poverty, female genital mutilation and the dire state of democracy in the Western world (oh, and one’s ability to peacefully enjoy a bit of auto-asphyxiation), many of the laughs in What Now?, and there are many, come from domestic issues chez Christie – or at least the surreal invented, inverted world where she and her husband argue childishly about what’s for tea while their young children mouth profound insights about life.
Big subjects are viewed through a domestic lens; she understands Donald Trump’s insatiable appetite for falsehoods because her children lie – about having brushed their teeth, for example – by going big. Even if Christie tells her offspring she has videotaped proof that they haven’t been near a toothbrush, it’s rejoined with “Fake news!”
Elsewhere, she dissects the media obsession with Islamic terrorists in our midst by describing the latest consumerist addition to her metropolitan elite north London kitchen, a state-of-the-art dishwasher that gives her rather more information than she’s comfortable with, and her personal paranoia about Russian surveillance when she reads about the functions of the family’s smart TV.
Christie also brings great physicality to the stage as she describes, in one of the show’s triumphant set pieces, a rude television producer who munches through a snack during their comically unproductive meeting, and there’s a brilliantly constructed anti-consumerist takedown of St Valentine’s Day during which she takes all the joy out of living for her young daughter.
These are the long-form political rants that have become Christie’s stock in trade, but she is sufficiently self-aware to guy herself as much as her political opponents in this show, never more so in her assertion that she has merely pretended to be a feminist for the past few years to mark out comedic territory for herself. Top stuff.