Not Just A Play About Brexit
Greg Freeman talks about his satirical work, Montagu, at the Tabard Theatre
Greg Freeman is an English playwright and television writer, known for his absurd and political plays. He was once described by Time Out London as the "batshit mental king of the dark fringe."
With Montagu playing at the Tabard Theatre to rave review, has Greg tapped into the national psyche and its fears over our current leaders? The play is described as a "clever political allegory about leadership, power and legacy as they apply to a herd of donkeys."
"I would like to hope one has tapped into what is happening around at any point, to try to reflect. It wasn't written entirely as a response to Brexit but I do feel in terms of that referendum that things were not thought through and consequences were not thought of and in the play there are a few occasions when this happens.
"But it is also about what it means to be a leader and I have explored the topic of leadership and how leaders are given the reins of power but don't always seem to know what to do afterwards."
The play is not about specific political leaders though the audiance can easily make comparisons with past and current politicians.
"Trying to be a principled leader is really difficult because the temptation is to become a leader who just reflects what the herd is saying. It is a sense of survival rather than being able to get anything done. Obama was an inspirational leader with charisma, but he couldn't do what he wanted to do within the system, no more than Trump can do so he turns his focus to things abroad where he can do things without consultation."
Greg Freeman grew up in Kilburn and cut his writing teeth on television quiz shows, comedies and sketches. He also successfully adapted the US sitcom Who's the Boss? for British television; it was renamed The Upper Hand and ran for seven seasons. Despite his plays often being considered political satire, he says he is not particularly political.
"I like to observe and it's an interesting phenomenon. I dont support a football team and yet once a week I like to still play football. I'd rather watch what's going on rather than become committed to a political party, better to observe and comment"
Greg started writing Montagu last autumn in response to the political upheaval and because of the fallout over Brexit. "There was so much upheaval politically and because of Brexit we had a situation where we were changing prime ministers and even that wasn't a particularly smooth transfer, then there was Trump and everyone kept saying he was unelectable, but people got that wrong too."
The description ('batshit mental king of the dark fringe' ) came about because he wrote a play about two teddy bears caught up in a situation where they witness a murder but don't do anything about it. They watch a clown die and don't intervene.
"It was about their journey, about how they learn to lie. If they had told the truth they would have been hung, so I played with that idea of the new reality of the truth."
That play has resurfaced and will be performed shortly in Austria where no doubt the audiance will draw parallels with the current situation of 'false news' and what political lies can do to humanity.
Greg had always written plays but changed his course several years ago following the loss of his wife to illness.He studied at Goldsmith's University and it gave him the confidence to move into a more absurdist and surreal world, to create a world he wanted to create, instead of feeling his plays had to be bordered by the 'real' world. Doig, A Musical With No Singing, No Dancing and Very Little Music, was his first success and is still in demand.
"I have a very young audiance following, I've got university students performing Doig at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. They're having fun with it. I find that very gratifying, that it talks to young people and they are the next generation of theatregoers. To be able to enchant them in some way is very good."
After Montagu finishes its run in Chiswick, he will a break and in the autumn will start again with something that will be, he says, hopefully relevant to what is going on in the world.
"I wrote Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Thing which touched on slavery which is a very real issue. It was motivated by the fact that many of Conan Doyle 's stories were very socially minded. I approached it with the atititude of 'what would he write now?'
"There's a lot of hidden slavery still going on around us and even subsequent to it being performed there has been a lot in the press about the issue."
And as for Montagu, well he says, donkeys have a bad press, and there is also something in the play referring to lemmings. "Well, they get a bad press too, they only jump off a cliff when their colony is too big and they go in search of food. It's just they don't think it through before doing it, much like us really."
Montagu runs from 23 May – 17 June 2017 on Tuesday to Saturdays at 7.30pm.
Tickets are priced £16/£12 and you can book online at www.tabardtheatre.co.uk or 020 8995 6035.
June 7, 2017