Review: Jonny and the Baptists at Cambridge Junction are politically on the money

Jonny and the Baptists

Jonny and the Baptists - Credit: Archant

How do you create a comedy about a third of the country living below the poverty line while three quarters of MPs are millionaires? It’s a tough one, but for the most part funny man Jonny Donahoe and guitarist Paddy Gervers succeed.

The night is politically on the money (all the billions of it in avoided inheritance tax) and executed with lashings of vim.

Before the show proper, entitled “Eat the Poor,” began on Friday, April 21 at Cambridge Junction, we were treated to half an hour of warm up material including a song that could have been written by the love child of Victoria Wood and Billy Bragg, Do It In The Library. A furious stomping number solving the problem of library closures by suggesting they’d double up as a great location for a frisky encounter. “We’ll put the fun back into public funded resource/ We’ll put the “oo” back into books.”

Aware of their very much preaching to the converted scenario, (indeed it came as no surprise that by the second half, the audience was swaying with their arms in the air to a chorus of Let’s Bury Thatcher Every Week), Donahoe tells us they’d tried to write something for both the left and right.

“We wrote a song called, You Can’t Trust The Polls which would resonate with those against media bias and also, all the ‘get-em-outs.”

This pretence at being non-partisan continued for about another 10 seconds until he concluded: “If you don’t like it [the show] go home – count your money.” But to their credit, the material wasn’t as obvious as expected. During the verses of Let’s Bury Thatcher Every Week, they had no qualms in singing about New Labour introducing tuition fees and privatising public services.

So what was their winning formula for making a Friday night audience in a Cambridge arts centre guffaw at the hopeless misery of inequality in Britain today? One thing was to introduce Andrew Lloyd Webber, the billionaire lord who flew back from the US especially to vote against Tax Credits (a lifeline to many working families) as the evil villain in a futuristic apocalyptic fantasy.

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Another was for Donahoe to strut around the stage in gold spandex pants and top hat as billionaire Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminister (who avoided paying £3.6 billion inheritance tax) a definite crowd pleaser, especially as he climbed over bodies in the audience.

In addition to Jonny Donahoe’s effortless comic timing and Gervers infectious enthusiasm and skilled musicianship, they came across as genuinely very good guys.

They tell us when they’re not playing half-empty arts centres they run a guitar group at Crisis, the charity for homeless people, in Oxford and Newcastle. “We live in East London where for some people a personality is just owning a hat. And so it was an extraordinary joy not to be with those people,” [but spending time with fascinating people at Crisis instead].

The show falls a little flat during the futuristic fantasy where Gervers has himself become homeless and narrates his plight to the audience with too much conviction. He doesn’t pull it off as it’s all made up and it becomes a little awkward, but the sheer joy and drive behind the rest of the show makes up for this dip.

The comedians ask at the end of the show, “Could we have a more united society?” then give us the answer, “No – some people are awful.”

But it can only be a good thing that these lads are brave enough to hold a mirror up to the ugliness of the present government. To have people laughing rather than despairing is quite an achievement. One audience member commented: “It’s a must-see before the sneaky snap election.”

Elizabeth Donnelly