Shows how much of an EU-geek I am that the only time I have been to the theatre recently was this weekend to watch The Schuman Plan at Hampstead Theatre. Details of the show from the theatre’s website here. Yet while the idea of putting the history of the European Union into a play is all very well, the line that was taken by this production was quite a bizarre one.
The play charts the political journey of Bill Bretherton, an idealistic youth who quotes Spinelli while a soldier in Holland in World War II and works for Attlee as he rubbishes Jean Monnet’s plans for the coal and steel community. The play then charts Bretherton’s increasing infuriations with the European ideal – both as a fishing inspector for MAFF, and while working as a CAP inspector for the European Commission. Bretherton gets more and more disenchanted by the whole integration process as the play goes on – a process I can myself happening in my own take on the EU – yet this does lead to the play being very one-sided in its approach.
The best analysis of the problems the EU faces come from the fisherwoman whose husband’s ship Bretherton has to decommission in Suffolk. She explains very well the problems of the Common Fisheries Policy, but there is no effort made to present the other side. Same for the CAP – the stereotypical portrayal of corrupt Sicilians is really over the top.
Yet the strangest scene is left for the very end, where an elderly Bretherton is on a beach discussing what has come of the European Union, and an effort is made to portray the whole thing as a Catholic plot inspired by Schuman, Adenauer and de Gasperi as a way to catholicise Europe. Now, there are plenty of conspiracies that you can come up with about the EU, but the idea that it’s a Catholic plot is not one that ranks high on my list! The fact that the play takes this line is especially odd as the rest of it is very well researched and historically quite accurate as far as I can tell.
So, in short, I have quite mixed feelings about the play… It’s good to see that someone has tried to make some theatre out of the EU, but the way that has been approached leaves quite a lot to be desired.