The documentary “Seaside Special” by Jens Meurer explores the United Kingdom shortly before Brexit. With wit one holds against political stress.
“Hollywood comes to Cromer,” impresario Olly Day explains to two long-established passers-by in front of the pastel-colored beach huts of the little town, the film crew, who is just taking a look at him for the camera. But it’s not Spielberg or Tarantino, it’s the seasoned one German documentary filmmaker and producer Jens Meurer (“Jeckes”, “An Impossible Project”)filming on the North Norfolk coast.
Among other things, the focus is on the Victorian pier of the seaside resort, which is one of the biggest attractions for local tourism next to the beach. Apart from strolling on the light wooden planks between freshly caught crabs and historic street furniture, this in turn lures visitors with the “Cromer Pier Show Special” located at the very end of the pier in the “Pavilion Theatre” building.
In the best English vaudeville tradition, a jigsaw puzzle of stand-up comedy, magic, tap-dancing legs, arias, “Wizard of Oz” songs and lots and lots of Abba cover performances is staged here over the course of the season – three months and six Days a week, two shows a day in front of a full 500-seat house. According to veteran musical director Nigel Hogg, it’s the last such End-of-The-Pier show in existence.
He is just one of the many active members of the show who Meurer brings in front of the camera, including director Di Cooke, who spends six months planning and fine-tuning the preparations. The show is put on together by professionals who have traveled there and cast local dancers and children’s talents.
Meurer – whose family is partly British and who studied with Boris Johnson at Oxford, among others – had long been attracted to this special place and the sympathetically old-fashioned spectacle. And then in the 2019 season, with the inevitably approaching Brexit, I also found a concrete time and frame to create a cinematic monument to the place and the troupe. The fact that this was before the Corona outbreak is also noticeable today because of the many kisses between the artists involved.
Avoid Brexit and party quarrels
During the political turmoil of the period, the show was an escape from Britain’s political and social fragmentation. But at the same time it is the scene of these conflicts, even if producer Rory Holburn issued the slogan to the team before rehearsals to stay away from Brexit and party squabbles – except for a good gag.
In the film’s narrative, the concrete political developments of 2019, from Theresa May’s repeated defeats in the referendum to the new elections in December, run parallel to the conceptual development, the preparations and the rehearsals of the show.
The situation in the population and team is divided as in the whole country. In North Norfolk (“Quintessential Great Britishness” someone calls the dominant attitude here) two-thirds voted for Brexit in 2016, some of whom have their say in the film: an elderly fisherman, for example, who goes out to sea with Meurer and explains that the “Great” in front of Britain is not there for nothing.
Others feel European, especially here on the eastern edge of the island state, after all Amsterdam is closer than London. And if you were to extend the course of the pier across the sea, you would probably end up around Oslo after a lot of North Sea.
Emigrate to Cologne
One of the troop professes to be the “Boris Man”, while another says that political stress is God’s way of testing the British sense of humour. One of the actors is planning to emigrate to Cologne (“my favorite city”) with his German friend in the long term.
And two young eccentric dancers want to do a big “Fuck the Brexit” tour of Europe with their vintage mobile home and maybe move to Hamburg. It’s just a pity that the car, despite the noble pearl-white matt interior, hasn’t had an engine and the two girls don’t have a driver’s license either.