Brighton Fringe 2017
Three quarters of MPs are millionaires. A third of the country lives below the poverty line. Whatever your politics, Jonny & the Baptists think it’s worth talking about.
Jonny and the Baptists are a comedy duo, who impart their particular brand of political commentary through some excellent and rather silly songs. I had seen them do a brief performance at Latitude Festival last year, which was excellent, so I was thrilled to see they were coming to Brighton to perform in the fringe.
Jonny, the plummy-voiced frontman, sets the tone for the show very well by informing any Tories in the audience that they will no doubt be offended by what is about to unfold. I know I am in the right place and any May-lovers should have started to feel very uncomfortable.
The show is titled ‘Eat the Poor’, and for all it’s silliness and larking around in over-tight gold underwear, there is a serious message at its heart. The Conservatives are systematically destroying the country, and the wealth gap is larger today than it’s been for generations. One of their solutions is to raise a swan-army to depose the Queen; another is to reject your inheritance. I think both plans make a lot of sense (though there’s unlikely to be any inheritance with Teresa May’s new social-care policy).
It is a long show for the Fringe (2 hours with an interval). However, it doesn’t drag, and retains its energy throughout, but I did feel that it slightly lost its way narratively in the second half.
In their desire to give the show some sort of plot and structure, they moved away from songs that commented on the current political situation, and imagined a future, where Jonny has teamed up with Andrew Lloyd Webber (there were some EXCELLENT puns on his name here) and married Gerry Hall. The Baptists (sic) is down on his luck and homeless due to the draconian Tory policies of the day.
The songs are still very funny, but actually I feel that all their points could have been made without trying to impose this slightly strange story arc, and it would have been better if they had stuck with the sketch form of the first half. In fact, they end up on such a downer that the (brilliant) swan song comes out of nowhere to rescue them with a swan song swansong.
Jonny and The Baptists are both talented performers, who are using their gifts in the best possible way. In these confusing and dangerous political times, satire is one of the best weapons to fight with, and this show is a great big laugh-bomb.