Review: The Brexorcist, Brighton Fringe

Rating: 2 stars

The Brexorcist promised to be good on paper. In the Brighton Fringe brochure, it was described as “the true story of Brexit”, “a multi-media political farce with a killer soundtrack”. The queue curling round the back of the Spiegeltent added to the suspense, suggesting others had been lured here with similar expectations. Unfortunately, what followed was an hour and a half of underdeveloped scenes, awkward shuffling on and off stage, and poor script writing.

Through a series of grotesque scenes, desperately in need of some cutting and some art direction, we meet characters like The Brexorcist (Seth Morgan) and Satan (Tim Leopard); each fit with a morbid outlook and a desire to watch humans self-destruct. There’s nothing wrong with the world, we’re told, however the people in it are f**ked.

It’s meant to be satire, but the problem is, it isn’t funny. Writer-director Sam Hewitt’s jokes are often sick and tasteless, such as having Satan bellow: “9/11 was a fucking good day for me”, or “who likes child porn?”, letting out a roar of laughter that goes on far longer than the joke, despite being met by silence from the audience. Good comedy often pushes us to the edge of our comfort zone, but the difference here is these are just foul statements, not thought-through farce. The political element was similarly off. Sexualised recordings of Theresa May and songs about Nigel Farage having diarrhoea were as good as it got.

During the interval – yes unfortunately there was one – both audience and several members of the choir headed to the bar, searching for a drink to make the rest of the diabolical go down better, presumably. I overheard snippets of conversations between people who were trying to work out what exactly it was they were watching. “Weird” was the word I heard bouncing round the most.

The multi-media element was in many ways the show’s saving grace. It provided some visual aid to otherwise confusing scenes. The footage of supermarket shelves, with products boasting practical, crude labelling instead of brand names, was genuinely funny.

The addition of The Dulcetones choir, known here as The Wounded Chorus, also added a refreshing element to the production. Songs such as Jason Pegg’s ‘All the News’ were brilliantly performed. Here, the choir sang sensationalist tabloid headlines in sweet harmonies, while the headlines in question flashed on the screen behind them. The choir looked the part thanks to Deborah Turnbull and Julia Monkcom’s grizzly makeup and costume designs. But the prolonged silences as the choir walked on and off stage were awkward. Some tech support here could smooth out these scene changes, which were often conducted in darkness and to silence.

The Brexorcist
sold itself as a piece of political satire. This underdeveloped production, which has snapped up one of the top festival venues, has a long way to go before delivering what it promises.

The Brexorcist is playing the Brighton Fringe on 22 May.