Young Corbyn: An Origin Story
Vault (Studio) Leake Street
Most fringe theatre audiences, being young and liberal, are exactly the kind of people to have been most enthusiastic about Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour Party and those most likely to be interested in seeing Young Corbyn: An Origin Story.
There are certainly plenty of topical issues to satirise, from the obsessions of the mainstream media to Corbyn’s history of passionate causes.
This show avoids all that, except for a moment in which one of the characters in exasperation simply points it out. Instead, they give us a play within a play in which a group of bickering actors stage a history of Corbyn as a Christ-like saviour.
Social secretary Paul welcomes us to a Momentum youth weekend and a performance by a company with the acronym WOKE, a name which is immediately disputed by one of its members claiming she changed it to Left Foot Forward. Despite this initial squabble, they are soon singing and dancing their way through history, with the giants of postwar Labour, Attlee, Bevan and Morrison, promising a golden future.
Sure enough, in a Chippenham stable, Jeremy is born and, after many adventures, including a trip to Jamaica where he became a “hot bearded man of the world” and a motorbike ride with Diane Abbott to Berlin where they kick down the wall to the Eastern block, Jeremy carries a huge wooden cross up a hill to become party leader. Along the way, as a Luke Skywalker figure, he meets the prophetic Tony Benn as Yoda. Among his opponents are Thatcher, Blair—who is described as looking like a “haunted crisp packet”—and Nick Clegg, whose only words are, “I hate students”.
Adam Rhys-Davies is particularly funny as the actor who wants to play every part from Clem Attlee to Diane Abbot and had the audience laughing every time he became a strange conspiracy obsessed brother of Jeremy.
The performance is a good deal of light harmless fun that will have Corbyn enthusiasts and Blairites sitting happily together. Yet political comedy at its best takes risks, engages ferociously with difficult issues and has been especially important in raising the spirits of those fighting for social change. Young Corbyn an Origin Story is none of that. It is simply amiable fun.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna