As I sit down at my computer I am reminded of the date: March 29th, 2019. A date in which we were originally promised our exit from the European Union; a tense time amongst everyone, win or lose. Last night’s performance of Us Against Whatever from Middle Child managed to express how much this skirmish in opinion can both bring us together and pull us apart.
Set in two parts (2008 and 2016), the play focused on the relationship between Steph (Josie Morely) and Anna (Edyta Budnik). Whilst the play was about Brexit, it focused on us rather than them: The people, not the politicians. It asks the questions of how the vote affects us and ultimately provides an answer. In 2008 we see how happy the characters are, with Steph and Anna meeting in a pub and eventually falling in comfort with each other, in a time of such instability. In 2016 we see how the difference in opinion eventually tears them apart; with Anna being a Polish immigrant, and Steph eventually becoming pro-Brexit.
The first act was explosive, grabbing our attention with a frenzy of overlapping voices discussing Brexit; a symbol for the noise that most of us are quite simply sick of. MC, Emma Thornett, eventually silencing them with the snap of the snare. The live instruments on stage completely changed the intimacy of the performance, and I was ultimately impressed with how seamless the cast would transition from acting to performing; often taking up multiple instruments throughout the night. My personal standout performance was from James Frewer, composer and musical director. Whilst Frewer went unnamed throughout the performance, he still managed to steal the show as he so effortlessly, and passionately, controlled the music.
The performance focused on two things: Brexit and music. Whilst Brexit took the foreground of discussion, the music continued to subdue beneath the story; whether it be swelling chords from Frewer’s keyboard or the rumbling march of the acoustic drums. Whilst the characters were slowly ripped apart from each other, the one thing remained was their love of karaoke. As each character was introduced to the audience, they quickly ran to podium to sing their karaoke song of choice. This acted as an initial indicator of their character traits to the audience. Anna for example sang a polish song, expressing her national pride. Eight years later, Post-Brexit vote, we see her continue to sing in Polish, proving to the audience that after her time in the UK, she is still unapologetically Polish. Karaoke was even the star of the interval, with the audience getting up to express their character with their song of choice. Whilst I spend the interval at the bar, I caught the backend of a very talented audience member singing Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive which resulted in massive applause. I was prepared to blast out Toto’s Africa, but maybe next time.
Related: See what’s on at Hull Truck Theatre
The theme of the first act was pride. From Anna’s pride of her nationality to the rest of the characters celebrating Hull City making the premier league in 2008. I was eleven when Dean Windass volleyed the ball that put our football club on the map and the play managed to bring back the same excitement I felt in the stands of Wembley Stadium, eleven years later in the seats of Hull Truck Theatre. With Joshua Meredith’s Neil rehashing lyrics about Windass ‘lifting’ his spirits, making the audience reminisce the excitement that surrounded the city that day.
Us Against Whatever is running at Hull Truck Theatre until Wednesday 3rd April. Whether you’re into politics or not, the play is captivating, emotional, hilarious, and celebrates Hull in no way that any other theatre company could.