Comedy acting legend Richard Wilson stars in a sketch that is the latest campaign weapon in the ‘People’s Vote’ fight for a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
The star famed for his Grumpy Old Man act as Victor Meldrew plays a customer enticed to a restaurant by an advert for a new dish – the ‘Brexit special.’
Unfortunately for him, the chefs cannot agree what ingredients to put into it, the head chef who designed it quits, to be replaced by a ditherer out of her depth in the heat of the kitchen, and eventually a waitress breaks down crying as she admits to Wilson they cannot make the dish after all.
It is when Wilson is told that he will nonetheless have to pay that he delivers his famous catchphrase: ‘I don’t believe it.’ And when he asks for something else instead, he is told that as so much time has been wasted trying to make the Brexit special, the kitchen is now closed.
The sketch, filmed on Friday at Ravel’s Bistro in Gospel Oak, Camden, was written by the young writer, comedian and activist Grace Campbell, who has been using a version of the Brexit special joke in her stand-up routine, including at the recent launch of the Women for a People’s Vote campaign.
Aged 24, she is the daughter of Alastair Campbell, an advisor to the People’s Vote campaign and ardent anti-Brexit campaigner. “I showed the sketch to my Dad, who loved it, and I asked him to help me get a good actor for it. He said, ‘there is only one man who can do this justice.’”
Campbell Senior, 61, who has worked with 82-year-old Wilson in the past on Labour Party election campaigns under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, contacted him, sent him the sketch, and the actor immediately agreed to take part.
Richard Wilson, who lives in St John’s Wood, had a heart attack two years ago, and said he was taking things easier.
Richard Wilson said: “But I was happy to help. I totally support the cause. I was very distressed by the referendum and I just think the whole thing is now a total mess. I really liked the sketch and I had great fun making the film with Grace. As we were filming, Mrs May was doing her statement after the Salzburg meeting where it all seemed to be falling apart. I hope we get a vote on the deal, because I really fear for where it is heading now.”
Grace, who in addition to writing and directing also co-stars as the waitress, said: “So many young people in particular feel that Brexit is going from bad to worse, and I just feel we all have to do what we can to campaign for the People’s Vote, and with the option to stay in the EU. I hope people see this and think ‘yes … you can send back a bad meal in a restaurant, so why can’t you send back a bad deal in a negotiation?’”
She added: “It was a total joy working with Richard. It’s not just that he is nice and funny, he is such a brilliant actor. I learned more in a single day’s filming with him than from practically anything I have done before.”
Her proud Dad said: “I was an extra at another table, and Grace kept telling me off because I just kept cracking up, and ruined several takes. But there is a really serious point in the film. We keep being told there are only two routes on Brexit now – no deal or Mrs May’s Chequers deal. But her deal is dead. And no deal would be a killer for the country. The People’s Vote gives the country a way out. The politicians have screwed it up. The people have to take back control and have a say on the outcome.”
Wilson said: “I have to pay for a meal which is advertised on the menu as the best thing since sliced bread but which they don’t know how to make. That is a very good Brexit metaphor.”
Ravel’s Bistro owner, Katarina Szajna, said she was thrilled for the restaurant, a favoured haunt of Monty Python star Michael Palin, to become a film location for a day: “I know Alastair because he lives nearby and he comes in regularly so when he and Grace popped in and asked if they could film here I had no hesitation. And when they told me that Richard Wilson was involved I was thrilled to have such a great actor in the restaurant. There was quite a buzz when it was all going on. I think most of our customers will be happy we have helped on this. I hear strong anti-Brexit views all the time in here. People are very worried.”
The video is online here: https://twitter.com/peoplesvote_uk/status/1044163560744603648