Music

‘Scotch Egg: The Musical’ Crowns Triumphant Run With Interview on Sky News

News from a substantial musical! I wanted to bring Daily Sceptic readers up to date on the recent production of our lockdown-sceptical show, Scotch Egg, and to thank you for your support.

There were five performances of Scotch Egg at the Playground Theatre in London last week, with strong box office numbers throughout. The show caught the attention of the press and we were interviewed by Sky News on Saturday morning, which contributed to a packed house for both the Saturday matinee and evening performances. A link to the clip is here.

Most pleasing was the audience reaction; the show veers between satirical comedy and pathos as it examines the absurdity and human cost of lockdown. For instance, the up-beat number “Drama”, (which features a rap battle between Boris and Chris Whitty at one of the 5pm press briefings) is followed later by a song sung by Death called “You Can’t Cancel Me”. The poignant “Fading Away”, (sung by an old man trapped in a nursing home, unable to see his wife of 50 years) is followed by the comedic skewering of Big Pharma in “Vaccine Cowboys”.

Not all our audience members shared our view of the pandemic but, across the board, they were able to join together to laugh at the idiocy and cry at the damage done. It was particularly good to chat to a group of NHS workers who had travelled down from the Midlands especially to see the Saturday show. I was moved by their heartfelt thanks in the bar afterwards. One senior nurse urged us to tour the show because “it’s funny but it’s also important. More people need to see it”. Another thanked us for telling the story “that we couldn’t tell”. In addition, it was also obvious to all that our young professional cast fully engaged with the show’s message, as they fizzed with enthusiasm throughout. All in all, it was a crazy but successful week. We are now hoping to attract a producer to take the show to its next stage – there is an audience, happy to pay good money to hear the message. So any contacts out there, please get in touch!

Here’s a tweet from one satisfied customer.

“Smart and Funny” Anti-Lockdown Musical Scotch Egg Announces New London Dates

Described by Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick as “smart and funny”, anti-lockdown musical Scotch Egg’s initial run at the Drayton Theatre sold out in two days. Now, new dates have been announced at the larger Playground Theatre in Latimer Road, London W10. It’s running there May 4th-7th, with shows every evening at 7.30pm and an additional 3pm show on Saturday.

Tickets are available on the theatre website and the show website, where you can also read reviews and more. Teaser videos available here and here.

Here’s what the website says:

2020: A Year to Forget

Remember New Year’s Eve 2019? The parties, the promises, the plans? Instead, we got the pandemic. Twenty years on, a late-night news show is running a retrospective of 2020. In the studio with sharp-tongued presenter, Judith Harper-Jones, is ex-PM Lord Johnson. As the peer struggles to explain the inexplicable, a series of characters take the audience through the comic and the tragic aspects of the crisis.

The show is not afraid to ask profound questions about life, love, death and whether a scotch egg really does constitute a substantial meal.

With satirical numbers like “The Laws are Set in Stone” and “He’s Gonna Save Christmas”, combined with the pathos of songs like, “Fading Away” and “We’re All Key Workers After All”, this musical romp will provide thought-provoking satire and a much-needed Covid boost – without the need for a fourth jab.

And Finally…

Jonny Smith, co-writer of the acclaimed lockdown musical Scotch Egg, got in touch after listening to the most recent episode of London Calling and hearing the title of the closing number come up in conversation. He thought the lyrics might amuse Daily Sceptic readers, and I agree – they’re very funny.

Scotch Egg, you may recall, is a new musical set in the future, looking back at the Government’s handling of the pandemic and starring Boris Johnson and a rapping Chris Whitty – it sounds hilarious fun.

Jonny writes:

I was catching up on the excellent London Calling podcast yesterday and chuckled at James’s comment: “Well, Tobes, you can’t be too careful, after all.” This happens to be the title of the final song in our show, Scotch Egg and I thought you might enjoy seeing the lyrics (below). The show has got some great reviews and a real buzz going. We are in talks with larger theatres latest reviews and pics on website.

“You Can’t Be Too Careful” from “Scotch Egg the musical”

I haven’t crossed a single city street,
Not since April nineteen ninety-three
Coz statistics truly frighten me 
You can’t be too careful after all

Going outside is quite a thriller
A country walk? I’d reconsider 
Coz nature is a serial killer  
And you can’t be too careful after all

CHORUS
You can’t be too careful 
You can’t be too careful 
Oh you can’t be too careful after all, not at all  
Oh you can’t be too careful  
You can’t be too careful
You can’t be too careful after all 
Mind the gap, watch your step, stay in bed, safety first, mind your head, walk this way, catch your sneeze, wash your hands 

Water’s clearly so dangerous 
A lifejacket really is a total must  
I wear mine while sitting on the bus  
You can’t be too careful after all

CHORUS
You can’t be too careful 
You can’t be too careful 
Oh you cant’ be too careful after all, not at all  
Oh you can’t be too careful  
You can’t be too careful
You can’t be too careful after all 
Mind the gap, watch your step, stay in bed, safety first, mind your head, walk this way, catch your sneeze, wash your hands 

I wear a mask! 
It’s a rigorous, effective thing,
Despite the fact it’s a quarter of a nappy
Tied up with a piece of string

(grandly, portentously)
I’m avoiding all humanity 
Especially all my friends and family 
It’s for the good of all society
And you can’t be too careful after all!

Listen to “You Can’t Be Too Careful” from the opening night.

Lockdown Musical Explores the Profound Questions: What Makes a Life Worth Living? Does a Scotch Egg Really Constitute a Substantial Meal?

Philip Roth once said that satire is “moral outrage turned into comic art”. I hope that describes pretty well our new musical, “Scotch Egg” which is running this weekend at the Drayton Theatre in London. Roth’s quote certainly encapsulates the mood in which I wrote much of the Book and the Lyrics. Kept sane mainly by Toby’s Lockdown Sceptics, in March 2020 I watched in stunned disbelief as key principles of law and democracy were destroyed – and all for a seriously over-rated virus. As an ex-lawyer (now a writer and teacher) I was baffled and angered in equal measure. I reached for my pen. However, my writing partner, Dom Hartley, as well as being a musical genius, operates very much in a comedic universe. He hates anything too preachy. So, together we spent almost two years creating a show which joyfully mocks the powerful and the tragic absurdities of lockdown. Our key aim is to be entertaining. Always. So, the show opens with an out-of-work actor driven to alcoholism and working for Deliveroo; there is a song sung by an out-of-work burglar and one from an equally bereft sex-worker. Oh, and the song “Drama” contains a rap-battle between Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty. We don’t shy away from tragedy either – one song “Fading Away” shows a dying man being forced to say goodbye to his wife of 50 years on an iPad.

We’re no strangers to musical theatre, having written two previous shows, “Crunch” (about the 2008 financial crisis) and “Vision”, which has been produced twice at the Edinburgh Fringe and many times in England and abroad. Although “Scotch Egg” is a comedy, it feels more important now than these other pieces. It’s a show that we simply had to write. It certainly seems to have sparked some interest as tickets for this short run sold out in a few days. However, there are some remaining seats for press or industry professionals so, if that’s you, please get in touch via the show’s website. We are aiming for a longer run in the summer, when I hope many other Daily Sceptic readers will get a chance to see it. In the meantime, our cast are ready to get under those lights this weekend and try valiantly to dispel our country’s stubborn mass psychosis with the most powerful tool of all: mockery.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s 2040 and a late-night news show is running a retrospective on the Pandemic. In the studio with sharp-tongued presenter, Judith Harper-Jones, is ex-PM Lord Johnson. As the Peer struggles to explain the inexplicable, a series of characters take the audience through the comic and the tragic aspects of the crisis.

This show explores all the profound questions: What makes a life worth living? Is democracy dead? Does a scotch egg really constitute a substantial meal?

With satirical numbers like, The Laws are Set in Stone and He’s Gonna Save Christmas, combined with the pathos of songs like, Fading Away and We’re All Key Workers After All, this musical romp will provide thought-provoking satire and a much-needed Covid boost – without the need for a fourth jab. 

Read a review (rehearsal) here.

And here’s the poster and programme:

U.K. Orchestra Provokes Outrage by Dropping Nearly Half Its Performers To “Prioritise Increased Diversity”

The English Touring Opera has unceremoniously sacked 14 of its white members, some of whom had worked there for decades, after its recently-appointed Musical Director held auditions “prioritising diversity”. The move has proved sufficiently extreme to anger even the Musician’s Union, which has hitherto been an advocate for such policies. The Daily Mail reports:

The musicians, aged 40 to 66, have been told they will not be offered contracts with the company in Spring 2022 citing diversity guidance from the Arts Council England, the Sunday Times reported. 

The musicians, who officially work as freelancers, can be dropped from the opera season-on-season but many have played with the company for up to 20 years and consider it a permanent job. 

The Arts Council England has hit back at the ETO, which it funds to the tune of £1.78 million a year, saying it never encouraged the company to sack musicians.

“We did not instruct the English Touring Opera to send this letter,” the Council said. “We are now in conversation with ETO to ensure no funding criteria have been breached.”  

The unfortunate artists received the following from the orchestra’s director:

Those Who Have Had AstraZeneca Vaccine – or No Vaccine at All – Banned From Upcoming Bruce Springsteen Show

Broadway is reopening in New York, but you’ll need to have received a vaccine approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to go to a show. Bruce Springsteen will shortly be opening in a one-man show on Broadway, but audience members will be forced to show proof of vaccination to attend – and the AstraZeneca vaccine won’t count! The Telegraph has the story.

The show, billed as “an intimate night with Bruce, his guitar, a piano, and his stories” will run five nights a week at the St James theatre.

“At the direction of New York State, Springsteen on Broadway and the St James Theatre will only be accepting proof of FDA-approved Covid vaccines,” the website says.

Anyone who has received another jab, or is unwilling or unable to have a vaccine will not be allowed to attend.

The news has been met with disappointment just hours north, across the Canadian border, where more than 1.7 million people have had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Only those who have had a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be allowed to go to the theatre.

Worth reading in full.

The nyc.com website says young children will be exempt from the vaccine rule, but no one else.

The only exception to the above will be for children under the age of 16, who must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult and also must provide proof of at least one of the following:

~ negative antigen Covid test taken within six hours of the performance start time, or

~ negative PCR Covid test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time.

Live Music Venues Beset by Regulations – and Not Just Ones Imposed by the Government

Audiences at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club won’t be dancing cheek to cheek anytime soon, with the famous London venue having introduced a raft of “Covid protocols” (some already required by the Government, others not), including mask-wearing, facial thermometers and protective screens. Here’s a list of new rules from their website.

  • Face coverings must be worn when entering and leaving the venue or anytime you are not seated. Staff will wear face coverings.
  • Upon entering the club there will be an optional sanitiser station and a facial thermometer which you will be asked to use;
  • All guests must scan the Track and Trace QR Poster on arrival at the club.
  • We have removed entrance furniture to ease congestion in and out of the venue;
  • We have increased our cleaning system using medical grade sanitiser on all surfaces;
  • We politely ask customers not to bring excessive baggage that needs to be checked into the cloakroom to ease congestion upon entering and leaving the club;
  • Increased hand washing of staff and staff health declarations;
  • We have gone cashless. Your PDQ machine will be cleaned between each use;
  • We have reduced capacity to 50% to allow for spacing between guests;
  • We have adapted our air conditioning system to ensure there is 100% fresh air being circulated in the club;
  • We have installed some protective screens in certain areas.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Club points out that these are “just a few” of the measures which it has introduced to ensure the safety of its staff, musicians and audience members. Incredibly, it says that this can all be done while “maintaining the atmosphere of the club”. Yeah, right!

If all (or most) live entertainment venues return to action in this manner, their post-lockdown recoveries could well be short-lived.

UK Arts Rescue Fund Has Paid Out Just Over Half of Money Allocated

A Government fund established last year to support the arts and heritage sectors through lockdowns has only paid out little more than half of the money it has allocated, leaving venues across the country cash-strapped. The Guardian has the story.

The National Audit Office said the culture recovery fund had budgeted for £830 million in grants and loans funding so far, but only £495 million had been paid out.

MPs have responded angrily to the findings, urging the Government to hand over the cash while “there are still organisations left to support”.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the £1.57 billion fund to help the cultural, arts and heritage institutions survive the pandemic last summer.

It has supported about 3,000 arts organisations in England so far, including venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Southbank Centre in London, and M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

The fund was increased by £300 million in the budget earlier this month, with the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, saying: “It’s such a relief we can look ahead now so this funding is not just about survival but for planning and preparing for the reopening of theatres, galleries and gigs.”

But auditors have examined the allocation of the funds so far and found that of the £1 billion that has been made available, about £830 million in grants and loans has been awarded to different organisations but only £495 million of that has been paid out, auditors said.

The department has assumed, in the worst-case scenario, that social distancing would remain until the end of March this year, auditors pointed out, and that demand for theatre tickets and venue capacity would remain at 40% of pre-Covid levels.

But the current situation exceeds this worst-case scenario.

Last month, plans for a new 2,000-seat concert hall in London were scrapped due to the impact of lockdowns. Venues across the country have suffered greatly over the last year from the shutting down of the arts. Of course, the best approach from here would be to scrap the “rescue” fund altogether and just let the sector re-open.

Worth reading in full.