The Winter of Our Discontent, Arcola Tent, London


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The Independent Culture

What better for a cold January night in double dip Britain than an injection of warming political satire?

Dusty Limits, the doyen of London cabaret, assembled the scene’s top talents to channel the spirit of Weimar dissent into Dalston’s Arcola Tent. And the shade of the 1930s duly arrived to flit between the Poundlands, Peacocks and fried chicken outlets of north-east London. Tom Baker inserted Berthold Brecht’s Song of the Merchant (“Don’t ask me what rice is/I’ve no idea what rice is/All that I know is its price”) into a diatribe against the alienated avariciousness of today’s bankers. There were wry songs of austerity from Tricity Vogue (“It sucks balls”) and Helen Areny (“We’re all screwed”), plus a helping of tomfoolery. A Tony Blair piñata was bashed until it yielded up its avoided tax (sweets that were then redistributed). Josephine Shaker, wearing a David Cameron mask, performed a YMCA tap dance.

This being cabaret, some burlesque was compulsory. And Jonny Woo brought some disturbing absurdity to the evening by performing a strip show dressed as the abominable snowman (in high heels). The climax involved the snowman pulling a banner from its frosty nether regions that read: “Be Cool – Stop global warming now”. As Dusty rightly observed when the audience had recovered, “That’s the way to get through to the kids”.

Smugness is death for satire, which is why Ria Lina and Sarah-Louise Young provided a service with their contributions. “I went to protest at St Pauls, at the Occupy London festival, but there was no disco tent”, sang Lina, dressed as a disappointed flower child and skewering those who regard protesting as a recreational activity. Young was even more direct with her rousing power ballad about poverty, terrorism, paedophilia etc: “We don’t really care”.

But in the end cynicism yielded to passion. Dusty Limits sat on stage with a Mr Men book on his lap and told the audience the story of Mr Greedy, who had inherited his money, didn’t like “scroungers” and watched a lot of Top Gear. “Mr Greedy laughed because he knew that the Government needed people like him. But one day Mr Greedy was lined up against a wall and shot in the head”. And after witnessing The Winter of Our Discontent it was almost possible to slip away into the frigid night believing that this age of austerity will end with bang not a whimper after all.