This performance was part of a weekend conference “Rediscovering the Radical” organised by Collective Encounters. An international conference exploring how theatre can contribute to radical social and political change in the 21st Century. It was supported by Arts Council England, LIPA, Collective Encounters and The Unity Theatre, Liverpool. Most of the audience were conference delegates but some, like me, had arrived at the auditorium for this show.
In was brought to us by Banner Theatre and involved a performance by The First of May Band featuring Dave Rogers, Vince Pryce and Fred Wisdom as core musicians and singers. The show was, in Dave’s words, “a living newspaper” offering an eclectic mix of folk, blues, reggae and ska songs, cut with real-life video interviews and stories from the last 5 years.
Banner Theatre has a long tradition of Radical Theatre, gaining them the title of ‘Britain’s foremost political theatre company - Entertainment for a Change!’ This show has evolved over the years, reflecting the changing political and social landscape of Britain - the catalyst being the austerity programme started with the Coalition Government in 2010.
In order to give a flavour of the show this was the set list:
The Bedroom Tax Song
The Yes Men Song
I’d Rather Shovel Sh*t Than Be An Entrepreneur
The Tax Dodger Song
No Matter Who You Vote For The Government Get In
We’re Not Going Back - The Birth Of The NHS
The Nye Bevan Song
The Lewisham Hospital Campaign Song
We’re Not Going Back (reprise with verses reflecting the current political climate)
Interwoven, in and around, the songs we were reminders of the issues of the last five years through interviews with journalists and activists, as well as a narrative of the band itself. They have been working with Unions and Protest groups to help them to raise their voice. In the end the audience was encouraged to do the same, with a reminder that in a democracy we have the right to protest against a government that serve us, the people. The final song widened our view from issues in our country to those in Europe and the wider world.
A very entertaining and thought-provoking show building on the traditions of the protest singers of the past but sadly, for me, there was nothing new here.
Reviewer: Alan Harbottle
Reviewed: 1st September 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★