Hiding Heidi (A tale of love & hate in Stoke on Trent)

Ian Dixon Potter

Golden Age Theatre Company

Etcetera Theatre

From 13 November 2017 to 03 December 2017

Review by Keith Mckenna

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Brexit has become an oppressive nightmare in Ian Dixon Potter’s play Hiding Heidi (A tale of love & hate in Stoke on Trent).

Thousands of immigration officials dressed in black are hunting down and deporting foreigners. Workplaces are losing their foreign workers, tariffs are making English goods too expensive and a cup of tea can cost two pounds.

No wonder a copy of Orwell’s 1984 sits prominently on a table. This is a bleak, pessimistic vision of England without the rest of Europe.

Heidi (Siobhan Ward), a young white woman with blonde hair, is originally from somewhere on mainland Europe. She has applied to be the care worker for Ralph’s mother Dorothy (Maxine Howard).

Ralph (Richard de Lisle) has no objections to giving her the job but knows anti-foreigner employment rules are likely to exclude her. His solution is to hire her unofficially and, when neighbours report seeing her push Dorothy’s wheelchair to the shops, suggest she never goes out of the house.

To avoid visitors knowing she is around, he gets her to hide in a "priest hole" he keeps in his living room and at one point when he is feeling romantic he goes in with her.

That’s about the only time Ralph is on stage when he’s not making anti-Brexit speeches. As far as he is concerned, the seventeen million people who voted exit from the European Union are racist or misguided. He is scornful of Corbyn and regards his neighbours with contempt.

Dramatically, his obsessive speechifying makes it difficult to recognise him as a character.

Other characters are not much better. They are all preoccupied by foreigners and Muslims. Even when Dorothy takes time off from the arguments to watch television, the ITV programme she turns to is The Great British Shake Off which reveals to its excited audience what aspects of the EU are being removed.

All this can be quite wearing so the comedy comes as a bit of a relief even if it is contrived, not particularly funny and further discourages you from taking the play seriously.

The show feels like a weird fusion of Question Time and Coronation Street with none of the drama or believability of either.