Theatre

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:

Italians to Require Covid “Green Passes” to Get Into Restaurants, Gyms and Theatres

Italy is set to join the growing list of countries preventing their unvaccinated citizens from living their lives as normal ‘after’ lockdown.

From next month, Italians will need a Covid ‘Green Pass’ showing proof of vaccination against the virus or negative tests to be allowed into restaurants, gyms, museums, movie theatres and more so as to assure those who are vaccinated that “they won’t be next to contagious people”. The MailOnline has the story.

Premier Mario Draghi’s Government approved a decree on Thursday ordering the use of the so-called Green Passes starting on August 6th. 

To be eligible for a pass, individuals must prove they have received at least one vaccine dose in the last nine months, recovered from Covid in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours.

The passes will be needed to dine at tables inside restaurants or cafes, to attend sports events, town fairs and conferences, and to enter casinos, bingo parlours and pools, among other activities. according to officials.

The certification is needed to “to keep economic activity open” and will allow people to enjoy entertainment “with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people”, Draghi said.

“The Italian economy is going well. It’s reviving, and Italy is growing at a rhythm superior to that of other EU nations,” the Premier told reporters.

Some 40 million people in Italy have already downloaded a Green Pass, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. 

He noted that the certification is already required to attend wedding receptions and to visit residents of care homes.

However, some have protested against the use of the Green Pass, with people taking to the streets of Turin on Thursday night to protest its use. …

So far, 45.8% of people in Italy have been fully vaccinated. In comparison, 53.9% of people in the U.K. have received two jabs, as have 53.6% of people in Spain, 47.6% of people in Germany and 43.5% in France.

Worth reading in full.

My Theatres Will Reopen Fully on June 21st “Come Hell or High Water”, Says Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber will take a stand against the Government if it does not remove all lockdown restrictions relating to his theatres later this month. With the premiere of his latest production, Cinderella, around the corner, the composer says he is willing to face arrest by opening his venues without social distancing if the lockdown roadmap is extended, insisting that “we are going to open, come hell or high water”. The Telegraph has the story.

Lloyd Webber, the world’s most successful composer of musicals, is putting the finishing touches to his first new West End show in five years. He should be preparing to celebrate – the first preview is just over two weeks away, with opening night set to follow on July 14th – instead, he’s spoiling for a fight.

The world premiere of his £6 million Cinderella depends on social distancing being lifted, in accordance with the Government’s “roadmap”, on June 21st, a promised milestone that looks increasingly in doubt. Yet, Lloyd Webber tells me, his voice bristling with defiance, “we are going to open, come hell or high water”. What if the Government demands a postponement? “We will say: come to the theatre and arrest us.”…

What should be the happy conclusion to a creative journey that began in earnest in 2018, before being diverted by the pandemic [lockdowns] (Cinderella was originally due to open last August) is once again in question. No show of this scale, with a bank-busting ensemble of 34, is commercially viable while attendances remain capped at 50% of capacity.

Despite the success of the vaccine roll-out, the mood music has suddenly changed, and official caution is once again in the ascendant. Lloyd Webber questions the justification for this. “I’ve seen the science from the tests, don’t ask me how,” he says. “They all prove that theatres are completely safe, the virus is not carried there. If the Government ignore their own science, we have the mother of all legal cases against them. If Cinderella couldn’t open, we’d go, ‘Look, either we go to law about it or you’ll have to compensate us’.”

The stakes could hardly be higher. It costs Lloyd Webber £1 million a month just to keep his six theatres dark. He has remortgaged his London home… and has reportedly borrowed more than £50 million, although he refuses to confirm that figure today. According to the Sunday Times Rich List his personal net worth has tumbled by £275 million in a year, to £525 million.

More challenges lie ahead. He has two other shows waiting in the wings: a new production of The Phantom of the Opera… is set to take over the refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre from July 27th; while a revival of Joseph is also due at the Palladium that month. Then, as owner of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London’s oldest playhouse, he’s also poised to unveil a £60 million renovation in time for the U.K. stage premiere of Disney’s Frozen in August. All of which leaves Lloyd Webber in a position he describes as “acute financial stress. I don’t think [the Government] understand it. We’ve never taken any profit out of the theatres. I’ve always tried to put back in, which is why we’re in a muddle now because we never had a big reserve.”

Lloyd Webber expressed his annoyance at the difficulty of getting the Government to understand the importance of unlocking live entertainment. “Unfortunately… the Government regards theatre as a nice thing to have rather than a necessity.”

Worth reading in full.

The only question is, will Lloyd Webber’s theatre productions be open to all? Last month, the composer compared “selfish” people who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid to drink drivers.