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Theatre Review: The B Word

Posted on Nov 26, 2018 by

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It’s all over the news these days, everyone is talking about it: Brexit is again in the spotlight, after the latest developments regarding the deal with the EU, as well as the disappointing and growing concern of a “no-deal” fall-out — welcomed by some, yet with its lose-lose character becoming more and more clear to most.

My review of “The B Word”

Orange Theatre Company seems to have planned the launch of its new play, “The B Word“, as if they knew what was going to happen in November in the UK around this topic. The play, freshly written by John Mabey and Kristine Johanson, follows the lives of a number of people after the Brexit vote and shows how they were impacted by the referendum. It tries to showcase various situations and viewpoints, including the ones of the “leavers”, and I think it does a pretty good job of it. The characters develop in relatable fashion, and a series of simultaneous flashback scenes fill in their back-stories. If anything, I would’ve liked to see more exploration of the leavers’ mindset or motivations and dive into a discussion about their actual reasons for voting that way; but that was not the focus of the play.

The B Word 01
photo by Arjen Veldt

While Brexit forms the central thread of the story, The B Word tackles even more sensitive topics, like expat and refugee life or what it means to belong. We live in a time when so many people move around the world easier than ever before, and their situations are not always black and white. The reasons people choose a certain place to live vary greatly, ranging from a wish to improve their lives to being forced to flee from their homes because of war; that was the case of my favourite character from the play, Roba, a Syrian refugee — she’s smart, calm and measured, while only showing glimpses of an exciting life I’d have loved to learn more about.

The play also highlights the case of an expat moving back to their native country: Annemijn, a Dutch woman who’s being chased away from her ten years of life in London by the Brexit vote, comes back to Amsterdam — only to discover that she can’t find her place in her old country any more. This hit a soft spot for me, since I also live in a country that is not my place of birth. The notion of “where home is” happens to be one I think about often: after eight years of living in the Netherlands, I sometimes feel that I have two homes and other times that I don’t belong anywhere.

The B Word was advertised as a comedy-drama, but I felt it was more drama than comedy — the “stress-relief” choir being the only one which brought comedic relief in between the emotionally charged, thought provoking scenes.

The B Word 02
photo by Arjen Veldt

In the final act, the lives of the characters were followed also a few years into an imagined post-Brexit future. The conclusion put forward was that collaboration and empathy were the solution to our current conundrum: talking to the ones who think differently from you and trying to understand each other’s reasons might help find common ground.

Placing that in perspective, perhaps sometimes it’s best to pop the information bubble we surround ourselves with (and our friends, particularly on social media) and have a hearty discussion with people from opposite sides of the political or ideological spectrum — who knows, we might surprise ourselves and build a bridge or two instead of burning them down?

The B Word 03
photo by Arjen Veldt

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets for this show. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own. 

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