Pros: Clever, funny wordplay and amazing musicianship.
Cons: The second half was a little too earnest at times.
Hold on tight for a raucous ride and prepare for jaw ache as self proclaimed lefty comics Jonny and the Baptists – also known as Jonny Donahoe and Paddy Gerbers – embark on a 50 date tour of this epic, satirical extravaganza. Presenting a show that’s part stand-up, part musical, this genuinely warm and seriously funny duo make their astounding wordplay look so effortless that it’s just awe inspiring. Their easy going, confident performance is made all the better by their close friendship, and they navigate the theatre-in-the-round stage like they’re performing a perfectly rehearsed routine on Strictly. The Orange Tree is an intimate theatre, not unlike an Victorian operating theatre, and their intense command of the space is incredible.
The political motivation for the show hits hard at the obvious targets. There’s a fabulous attempt to define Farage as a noun, while Margaret Thatcher’s funeral and Brexit are the focus of their songs. This may sound too preachy for some, but I feel that with their wit, wide-eyed shock and incredulity at political events of the past year, Jonny and Paddy get the balance right and would be able to entertain audiences of all political persuasions.
The first half is an absolute joy. With audience in fits of belly laughter, the pair had us in the palm of their hands. As we’re about to go to interval, we’re warned by Jonny that it’s been said before that the second half, the musical itself, can drag in places. Okay, it did now and again, but their transparent attitude towards this was fantastic. The way they pre-empted any negative feedback of their show was so funny and refreshing. I admire their tenacity, as I’m sure that they have no intention to change a thing! The narrative kicks in for the second half, as they consider a future in which the band part company and Jonny’s career sky rockets. He’s hob-nobbing with Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Jerry Hall, while Paddy’s luck runs out. The pair worked with the homeless charity Crisis last year, and their experiences inspired Paddy’s storyline as his fortunes decline and he becomes one of the invisible poor. The piece turns more serious with some beautiful lyrics and heart-warming moments, as the equality gap widens and betrayal deepens. It does open the debate as to whether the comically presented statistics and hard-hitting subjects we guffawed at in the first half had a more far-reaching impact than the serious, earnest slant of the second.
I loved Jonny and the Baptists’ passion for raising awareness of inequality. Their flawless musicianship and soaring harmonies coupled with their fearless wit and energy makes for a raging, joyous night at the theatre.
Written and Directed By: Jonny Donahoe and Paddy Gerbers
Producer: Will Young for Supporting Wall
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run at the Orange Tree Theatre. The next shows in London will be at the Soho Theatre in May 2017.