In Brexit-Britain, Hamilton Finds New Meaning

Jamael Westman, centre, plays Alexander Hamilton at the refurbished Victoria Palace in London (photo: Matthew Murray)
Jamael Westman, centre, plays Alexander Hamilton at the refurbished Victoria Palace in London (photo: Matthew Murray)
Jamael Westman, centre, plays Alexander Hamilton at the Victoria Palace in London. (Photo: BBC)

“Immigrants, we get the job done.”

On an evening in early September, one of the most famous lines in Hamilton draws fresh cheers from a London audience. The crowd erupts to signal their approval as Lafayette and Hamilton high-five on stage. The phrase’s relevance is not lost on an audience that has just lived through a week of Brexit madness in the British capital. As the music blared at the Victoria Palace Theatre, a few hours earlier, the Prime Minister’s own brother had turned on him, recusing himself from the Brexit saga.

With the words of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn still ringing in their ears, Londoners seemed revitalized by the chance to hoot and holler at Jason Pennycooke and Jamael Westman two talented, British, black young men as they presented a more appealing narrative on stage.

When the Broadway smash-hit Hamilton first came to the U.K., there were those who questioned how it would play to a British audience. As CBS’s Mark Phillips put it, “It is, after all, a show about the American Revolutionary War which the British famously lost. So, how would it play in the land of the losers?”

As it turns out, Britain’s current predicament makes it the perfect host for the play. Caught in year three of its own messy struggle for independence from the European block, Britain is the perfect subject for Hamilton’s lyrics. It’s less dynamic, less balletic, and less poetic but Brexit is its own freedom-struggle of sorts.

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Parliament has been ‘prorogued’ since Tuesday. The suspension prevents Parliament from sitting until mid-October, only weeks before the Brexit deadline. (Photo: Andrew Testa for The New York Times)

The conundrum the U.K. finds itself in is best captured by the words of King, George III. According to CBS, the character of King George is played, “a bit more for laughs” in the British adaptation of Hamilton. The character, played as a loveable, cartoon-like villain by actor Michael Jibson certainly drew his fair share of laughs.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex meet with the cast of Hamilton, including Michael Jibson as King George (Photo: Getty Images)

One of King George’s solos, “What comes next?” drew the loudest cheers. The King’s words, filled with scorn, are intended for the newly independent Americans. However, addressing a British audience, the Brexit-irony was unavoidable.

What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Awesome… wow
Do you have a clue what happens now?

Jibson paused, cocked his head to the side, as if to give the audience a moment to catch the double-meaning. Then he continued,

Oceans rise
Empires fall
It’s much harder when it’s all your call
All alone
Cross the sea
When your people say they hate you
Don’t come crawling back to me

With the audience in hysterics, it was clear that it may as well have been the EU’s Michel Barnier up there, singing on stage.

Parliament is scheduled to return, post-prorogue, on 14th October with a Queen’s speech. That same evening, a short walk away from Westminster, the cast of Hamilton will take to the stage.

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