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People Like Us review at Union Theatre, London – ‘excruciatingly bad, painfully partisan’

The cast of People Like Us at Union Theatre, London. Photo: Paul Nicholas Dyke

Pro-Brexit journalist Julie Burchill and pro-Brexit writer Jane Robins have teamed up to write a new play about Brexit – a supposedly raunchy political comedy set in a supposedly vivacious London book group.

If that premise doesn’t immediately make you wince, then try this for size: it’s got a programme note by Rod Liddle.

Five middle-aged wine-guzzlers – three remainers, two Brexiteers, all unbearable arseholes – meet up every month to discuss a novel and argue about the EU.

As a play, it’s just so utterly delusional; it’s tough to tell whether it’s worse when it thinks it’s being clever or when it thinks it’s being funny. When it thinks it’s being clever, it has its characters spit out quote after obvious, ubiquitous quote, then peacock around as if they’d just spouted some Noel Coward humdinger. When it thinks it’s being funny, it has them spiral into angry, excruciatingly overwritten tirades about sore losers, remoaners and bureaucratic Brussels. Liddle, there on press night, guffaws audibly.

All good political theatre articulates both sides of the argument – see the plays of James Graham. Burchill and Robins have zero interest in writing good political theatre.

This is old-fashioned, self-absorbed, self-congratulatory entertainment, whichever way you voted. Pity the poor actors, all of whom struggle in Ben De Wynter’s awkwardly staged, dinner-party production.

Pointlessly unhelpful. Painfully partisan. Uniquely awful. Waffle so reductive it might have been spluttered out by Boris Johnson. It would be infuriating if it wasn’t so hilariously bad.

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Verdict
Excruciatingly bad, painfully partisan Brexit play by journalist Julie Burchill and writer Jane Robins
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