If you’ve found yourself constantly surprised and disappointed over the last twelve months by the results of public votes, you’re not alone; Adele, the protagonist in Tom Glover’s Wet Bread, knows exactly how you feel. A lifelong campaigner, she’s saying and doing all the right things – helping the homeless, going on fun runs, organising sit-ins against fracking (despite not knowing exactly what it is), and most importantly looking down her nose at Tories, Brexiteers, and indeed anyone who doesn’t agree with her. And if that means her relationship with her family is in tatters, she’s ditched the man of her dreams because he eats meat, and the alcoholic homeless guy staying in her flat won’t stop calling her Twinkletits – well, that’s just the price that needs to be paid for being a good person. Right?
Performed by Morag Sims, Wet Bread is simultaneously very funny and often slightly uncomfortable viewing, because while many of the scenarios are just a bit too ridiculous to be realistic, they still touch a nerve in a world where political arguments all too often become personal, and rage just as fiercely on Twitter as they do in Parliament. Adele’s not a bad person; she genuinely longs to change the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that – but in defending her own beliefs, she’s inadvertently become as intolerant and judgmental as the classic “evil Tory” she’s fighting against. Worse, she’s been so busy fighting everybody that she’s lost sight of what’s going on with the people closest to her.
The play isn’t a criticism of left-wing politics – or right-wing, either; despite Adele’s bitter diatribes against – well, everyone – there’s no suggestion that one side of the political divide is better than the other. If anything, the play’s trying to tone down our increasingly urgent need to politicise anything and everything that happens, and to point out how ridiculous both sides can be. None of which means we have to give up our principles – but maybe, Glover suggests, we should be focusing more on what unites us than on what drives us apart; to stop making everything into a battle and instead try to change the world in small, positive ways.
Sims comfortably owns the stage, skipping through an array of characters, from an enthusiastic fun run organiser (“yay, cancer!”) to Adele’s devastated and petulant niece, who’s just learnt that her birthday present is a goat – and that she doesn’t even get to keep it. Adele herself is a bit like the Bridget Jones of politics: loveable but a bit of a fool, quick to overreact and always taking things just a little too far. It’s a brilliant comedy performance, but a bittersweet finale is delivered with genuine sincerity to ensure Glover’s point is driven home.
Wet Bread is a lot of fun, but it should also make us stop and think – not about what our political views are, but rather why we have them and how we wield them. The main character may in this case be a leftie, but there’s plenty of entertainment and education in this 60-minute production for audiences of all persuasions.