Received an intriguing email the other day. Somebody wanted to know about my political-satirical musical agit-prop revue ‘The Soapbox Cabaret’ for ‘a book’ they were researching. Instantly flattered I hastily replied that I would gladly open up the Soapbox archives and had only recently discovered a recording of our last performance, at The Greys, Brighton in September 2000.
I sat back and wondered what the book could possibly be about. Obviously a Labour Party related project, maybe looking at the various forms of anti-Blairite dissent that have emerged during the New Labour dictatorship. Or maybe somebody attached to the Glasgow University archive of political song. Whatever is was it would obviously be some obscure political, probably academic, publication. The writer had even managed to mix me up with the other lefty John Rogers who works for Unison. They knew their fringe Labour politics alright. They’d been a regular at conference in the late 1990’s. Maybe they’d caught the show at the Hackney Empire Studio, or the Riverside Studios, read my articles in Labour Left Briefing or The Morning Star. Recognition at last. I could explain the progression from a theatrical show based on briefing papers and political speeches performed in a political environment to my work that uses the landscape as a performance space were the script is a series if mythical-historical markers. Planning applications and urban design statements the new source material. Dario Fo the common inspiration (“Everything has its origins in the place we are born”) – folklore, place, heresy, buffoonery. I’m toying with a embarking on a thesis around this idea.
As I related this to my colleague at work in an excited manner I saw a possible chink in the story. I realised that a member of our dedicated cast has gone on to an impressive level of achievement and fame he’s also no stranger to the pages of other Red Tops (i.e. not the Socialist Worker or Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!).
I googled the writer’s name still half expecting to find her attached to an erstwhile academic institution. I felt slightly sick as the list of stories of a quite unacademic nature filled the screen filed for the Daily Mirror.
I sent back an email asking if she could tell me a little more about the book. It was just possible that her research of my famous friend had brought my show to her attention and had spurred her on to engage in a piece of serious writing, leave her tabloid past behind her and write the definitive guide to political comedy; ‘From The Buffonati to The Soapbox Cabaret’: the minstrels of Berne to the Labour Party Conference Fringe Revue.
Her reply was prompt. It was a biography of my famous friend. An unauthorised biography at that, it’s already available for pre-order from Amazon, so it was too late to persuade that my idea for the grand book of comic dissent was a more worthwhile project. Oh well.
Ten minutes later the right-on political comic Jeremy Hardy walked into my place of work. “So Jeremy, did you think of trying comedy to defeat the Israeli army, you see I’ve got this idea for a book……”