FringeReview UK 2017
Music! Comedy! Revolutionary socialism! A riotous evening with three of the UK’s most joyfully rabble-rousing acts.
Lefty scum is a bit of a touring socialist variety show; (the best kind of variety show to my mind!) and the evening begins with a set from self-proclaimed protest singer Grace Petrie. She is very engaging and funny, full of self-effacing humour and songs about Labour politicians who have faded into history.
Indeed it must be hard for any artist whose main focus is the political, as that landscape changes so quickly and your absolute best song ever can suddenly be rendered obsolete by a sneaky change of Conservative leadership. Grace does have this problem with some of her songs (though I’ll forgive her for all the great assonance and rhyming she does with Ed Milliband), but fortunately the one she wrote when Theresa May was Home Secretary packs even more of a furious punch now she’s Britain’s leader.
Grace intersperses her set with quite a few songs that are more funny and/or sweet than angry, and though she keeps promising that what she sings from here on in will be full of rage, she still manages to slip in a very heartfelt one about rushing up the M5 to see the birth of her little niece Ivy.
Next on the bill is comedian Josie Long, who I have heard on the radio and seen on YouTube many times, but have never watched live onstage. She has an incredibly likeable manner and immediately you feel that you want to sit in a pub with her for hours and set the world to rights.
Her slightly husky and little girl voice, belies a whole lot of insight and anger at the unfairness of the world we live in, as well as the pleasure at the results of the recent election and the mainstreaming of socialist views.
Her set ranges from the awkwardness of her posture, to the alt-right trolls who have stalked her online ever since she posted a video about compassion over the summer. (Incidentally I saw that video, which was clever, and articulate and wise, and of course did not warrant word of abuse.)
She is an ebullient and captivating storyteller, using her hands as conducting batons to embellish her tales of canvassing for the Labour party earlier this year, where an old woman gleefully ripped up a Conservative party leaflet in front of her. It’s a pleasure to watch, and I hope that there were indeed some ‘left-curious’ people in the audience, as she hoped their would be, as if anyone will win them over to the other side it would be Long.
Finally, to complete the trio of acts is veteran duo of the political comedy scene, Jonny and the Baptists. Having seen them at the Old Market back in May there were few surprises in their set, but I certainly didn’t mind listening to their excellent song about rallying all the swans together to kill the queen. It’s completely barmy, very funny and somehow it works, as the audience all chime in with the ‘honk honk honk honk honk’ chorus.
There was a new song that they did which I thoroughly enjoyed, urging parents to ban Daily Mail reading grandparents from seeing their grandchildren. It was very funny, with some cracking one-liners, and clearly resonated for several of the audience members around me, who were cringing and whispering to their companions that it was a little close to home.
Each act did a 20 minute set in the first and second halves, which broke the show up nicely, and whilst it would have been nice to see everyone come together for a final number (Grace had even left before the end), it felt like a coherent and highly enjoyable show in the company of friends.