Director: Will Young
Writer: Jonny Donahoe & Paddy Gervers
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts
Jonny and the Baptists return to the road straight from their hugely popular Edinburgh Fringe run of Eat the Poor. The musical satire duo have brought a show to The Bike Shed Theatre every year for the past five years. Going from playing in the bar, to one night in the theatre, to two, and this year they’ve sold out their four-night run. As the show opens it is easy to see why, with sharp comedy and enormous musical talent, Donahoe and Gervers are a force to be reckoned with.
At a time when there are twice as many homeless people as there were five years ago, it is unsurprising that a show about poverty, inequality, and revolution has been such a hit. The duo integrate political facts and figures into the music and story of Eat the Poor without ever making the audience feel as if they are being bombarded with information. The gloriously clever writing, allows Donahoe and Gervers to explore injustice within our social system through musical comedy.
Eat the Poor opens with Donahoe issuing a warning to the audience that they should expect things to get weird in the second half. Perhaps not surprising as the second half is set in the dark depths of the unknown: The future. While not so radically different from the present day so as to be unimaginable, there are a pair of very small gold hot pants that gives heed to the earlier warning.
With the past/present and future, the performance is split into two halves. The first, following Donahoe and Gervers as they journey through the political and social climate of the last 30 years, then right through to their imagined futures where life takes them in two very different directions. Well, ‘life’ or Andrew Lloyd Webber, depending how you look at it. Webber playing a surprisingly large part in Eat the Poor, mostly for having flown from New York to the UK to vote in the House of Lords for the 2015 Tax Credit cuts for low-income workers.
Opening with just two guitars set upon an empty stage, the simple staging emphasises the duo’s troubadour feel. Will Young’s direction sees the space used to the pairs’ advantage in every way, with the seated audience even becoming a space for exploration at one point. Movements as simple as sitting down are given gravity and transforms a character, allowing the audience to visualise the more serious elements of the story being told.
A joyous offering of positive protest music wrapped up in a story both hilarious and heartfelt. Not for everyone, but it’s safe to say at least 48% of people won’t be sorry they bought a ticket.
Runs until 11 March 2017 then continues to tour | Image: Contributed