The Schuman Plan, Hampstead, London

The trouble with Brussels
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The Independent Culture

Luscombe tacks to and fro across seven decades, charting the life a Europhile called Bill. Played by a nerdy, bespectacled Robert Hands, Bill is small fry (and fictional) but crosses paths with big names. He's seen as a boy growing up in a Suffolk port, a WWII soldier in Holland, and a Downing Street whippersnapper outraged by Attlee's dismissal of Jean Monnet, the French civil servant who has come up with the Schuman Plan from which the EU burgeons. Later Bill is conversely disappointed by his old chum, Ted Heath, who's so keen to get Britain into Europe that he's ready to betray UK fishermen in a surreptitious deal. Bill heads off to the continent to implement the Common Agricultural Policy, tries to resist corruption, and ends up a disillusioned petty bureaucrat, wrecking lives back in Suffolk by enforcing the destruction of regulation-breaking trawlers.

Thanks to Luscombe, I am the wiser regarding fishing quotas and EU red tape. Carolyn Pickles as the angry trawlerman's wife, Hilary, will politicize you if anyone will. Also there's a certain thrill to seeing Simon Robson's seemingly pukka Heath becoming increasingly underhand, driven by a twisted nationalism. Alas, though, the themes - including xenophobia down the years - are flagged up with glaring obviousness. Background facts and statistics thud onto the theatrical deck like tons of flailing herring.

Richard Bean's trawler saga, Under The Whaleback, was miles better. As for Clark's five-strong cast, their role-swapping creates a sense of complex, fluid and conflicting attitudes, but their cameo characterizations are hit and miss, with embarrassingly wobbly accents. The sets are tacky, with spray-painted backgrounds and glued-on pebbles, and the pacing is uneven. Theatrically, there are other fish in the sea. Skip this.

To 25 February, 020 7722 9301