St George is Cross

Sun 9th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Alannah Jones

at 01:30 on 20th Aug 2015

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Staged in a quintessentially cramped Edinburgh Fringe venue, St George Is Cross is a quintessentially Fringe play. The audience is greeted by the sultry tones of Born Slippy by Underworld, overlaid with Winston Churchill’s famous 1940 ‘We shall fight them on the beaches’ speech, thus setting the tone of twisted patriotism and ingenuity that continues throughout the duration of this absurdist political satire. Prior to the opening of the play we are advised that if we ‘hate the current Tory government’ we should leave immediately – the opposite, of course, is true.

In a Britain overcome by the disease of European cosmopolitan liberalism, our ‘protagonist’, right wing hero and champion of lad culture Dom Dompson (Ben Kavanagh) cuts a strikingly similar figure to Daniel O’Reilly’s notorious Dapper Laughs. With the fate of the nation on his shoulders, it is up to him to protect Great Britain from becoming another monstrous limb of the all-consuming euro-liberal behemoth, at the head of which sits a pseudo Angela Merkel (Abi Tedder). Personal highlights include cameos from Michael Gove and the top gear sound track as well as a particularly visceral reaction to the nationalization of the British railways.

Tedder and Kavanagh both demonstrate abundant talent and versatility, filling in all the characters in between. The gaps are somewhat plugged by a wryly self-referential voice over, often passing comment on the quality of the scenes of what is essentially one long drawn out sketch.

Writers James Moran and Jonny Lennard, (unsurprisingly both Cambridge Footlights alumni) have come up with a politically biting script chock-full of spirited and witty gags. The play is essentially a constant barrage of witty puns and topical references which at times verged on overkill. And yet the production’s greatest strength lies in its silliness and refusal to take itself too seriously.

Part parody thriller, part sketch show and part political satire, St George Is Cross is a fast paced, vivacious and mercilessly topical, this is literally a jibe a minute comedy, let down only slightly by its excessive silliness. Nevertheless, this show is great fun and all in all a successful lampoon of conservative euro-skepticism, carried off with aplomb by Tedder and Kavanagh.

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Michael Roderick

at 03:11 on 20th Aug 2015

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Silly, witty and above all relevant, St George Is Cross is an irreverent look at one of the most contentious of contemporary debates in British politics: the possible dissolution of UK membership of the EU. Irreverent must be the operative word here, for whilst it’s very funny, the play never raises any interesting questions, nor is its satire particularly sharp (and neither do I think was it meant to be). In fact, it is more a procession of hysterical puns, associations and stereotypes, poking fun at both left and right, light-heartedly lampooning all the usual British views of their continental neighbours. And so, whilst I wouldn’t recommend St George Is Cross for its complexity, it’s a fairly fun way to spend and hour.

We are initially introduced – after listening to a mash-up of Churchill and Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ - to Dom Dompson (Ben Kavanagh), a tally-ho English patriot and television personality whose shows rake in nine million viewers a night. Because of his denim jacket, correct attire for all right-thinking men, he is immune to the pseudo-socialist, wishy-washy, blandly liberal ideas of the ‘elite’, and consequently despises the EU and, indeed, all Europeans (this might seem a non sequitur to more savvy viewers). When his beloved country is invaded and occupied by an army of bruschetta-missile-carrying and foie-gras-guzzling continentals, led by a thinly disguised Merkel clone (Abi Tedder) and her Jean-Claude Junker-ish minion, he resolves to resist, soliciting the help of Ann Widdecombe along the way.

This is not a subtle play, and in some ways it’s all the funnier for that. Almost every line is a pun or a stereotype: the Merkel clone wants to impose some kind of Eurosocialist paradise upon the green and tory land she finds; she and Junker-minion love gentleness, obfuscation and the films of Francois Truffaut, everything the English revile and detest. The absurdity of these dreary prejudices – but also their celebration, in a way – is often very funny. The pair does a good job at taking such bluntly, brutally comic material and energising it, giving it form and variation. However, with such enormous energies and such a relentless dependence on punning, the script has no sophistication whatsoever- which is fine, but it’s something to be aware of. The whole thing is just punchline after punchline. The crudeness is reflected in the play’s understanding of European leanings, which in turn reflects and mocks the English (mis)understanding of continental politics (since when was Angela Merkel ever a left-leaning liberal?)

However, criticism like this seems meaningless in the face of such frivolity. The play isn’t sophisticated, nor does it want to be. It pokes fun in all directions, is omnivorously jeering, and has oodles of energy. It is, above all, entertaining, but little else.

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