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In collaboration with the Orange Theatre Company (OTC), Kristine Johanson, Assistant Professor of English, and John Mabey co-wrote a successful comedy-drama about Brexit and the complexities that come with separation. Directed by OTC's Artistic Director Elyse O’Shaughnessy, the seven shows performed in November 2018 attracted close to 1,000 visitors.

Arjen Veldt, Theatre performance The B Word
The B Word: Strategies for a Graceful Exit (photographer: Arjen Veldt)

In February 2018, Amsterdam-based Orange Theatre Company (OTC) commissioned Kristine Johanson, Assistant Professor of English, and John Mabey to write a play about Brexit. Both had submitted partial scripts for OTC’s open-call for a Brexit play, and the company’s directors, Sairah Erens and Elyse O’Shaughnessy, ultimately asked them to collaborate. The B Word: Strategies for a Graceful Exit was the successful result. Directed by OTC’s Artistic Director Elyse O’Shaughnessy, the comedy-drama played for seven performances at the Westergastheater in Amsterdam on 9, 10, 11 & 16 & 17 November 2018. All four evening performances sold out, and almost 1,000 attendees came to the show.

The play’s subtitle, 'Strategies for a Graceful Exit’, communicates a problem Johanson and Mabey thought a lot about when writing The B Word: is there a way to leave, to separate, that isn’t a rupture? That isn’t painful? The playwrights grappled with this question by focusing on belonging and identity, and used these ideas, rather than political parody or rehashing the news, as the foundation for their play.

‘Unions are made and unmade every day. Why is this one so fucking special?’

The B Word opens in Amsterdam in 2017, and it follows the lives of three strangers arriving from London in the wake of Brexit and the uncertainty it has created. Philip Bowler wants to put distance between himself and an increasingly hostile society; Annemijn De Boer returns to reconnect with her first home after 10 years in the UK; and Moira Kennedy wants to leave past mistakes behind and make a new start. In searching for home, all three are confronted with people and events that call into question what it means to belong. The play looks to the recent past and to the future, to the UK and to the Netherlands, to stage the messy, conflicting ideas of British, Dutch and Syrian characters whose lives play out what it means to belong to the UK and to Europe.