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Hamilton: America 1776? Or Britain 2016?

January 6, 2018

8:00 AM

6 January 2018

8:00 AM

Hamilton is the most exciting American cultural export in decades. It’s now showing in London every to large, delighted audiences — and we Brits love it. As a musical, it takes a dusty, distant slice of history and infuses it with excitement, intellect, lightning wit and an intoxicating whiff of sexual tension.

I know this because I saw it in New York two years ago, just before Britain’s EU referendum. And I was struck by the way it captured — not always intentionally, I suspect, given the impeccable liberal credentials of the cast and writers — the political mood in America and over here: revolution, uncertainty, unrest, the falling of old orders and rising of new.

In particular, it’s the inspiring story of a nation full of talent and fizzing with energy that’s shackled to a greedy, unelected elite across the sea; belittled and derided by self-appointed rulers, yet willing nonetheless to take a risk in the name of freedom and self-determination. America, 1776 — or Brexit Britain, 2016?

That said, among the standout features are the Thomas Jefferson vs Alexander Hamilton rap battles, conducted with machine-gun speed and precision. I can’t help thinking the modern equivalent — British minister David Davis vs boring EU bureaucrat Michel Barnier — might not quicken the pulse so effectively.

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