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The Big Society is here at last – as a musical

Cameron's project inspires musical parody, writes Jonathan Brown

You have heard the soundbite and listened to the speech – now enjoy the musical parody. For anyone still grappling with David Cameron's notion of the big society, help is at hand.

The Prime Minister's idea has been given The Good Old Days treatment and is due to be performed in Edwardian music-hall style. The all-singing, all-dancing Big Society! premieres at the newly restored Leeds City Varieties later this month starring the Never Mind the Buzzcocks comedian Phill Jupitus.

The show has been written and composed by Boff Whalley, lead guitarist of Chumbawamba, the band whose lead singer Danbert Nobacon decanted an ice bucket over John Prescott at the 1998 Brit awards in protest at Labour's refusal to back the Liverpool dock workers. Despite being set in 1910, the Red Ladder theatre company production seeks to draw parallels to the present day.

The story centres on the exploits of a variety show cast in a country presided over by an ageing monarch, run by an élitist government of public schoolboys and bedevilled by a corrupt media establishment. It also marks a return to more radical roots for Jupitus, who began his performing life as a punk poet and was part of Red Wedge, the anti-Thatcher music and comedy collective that included socialist pin-ups Paul Weller and Billy Bragg.

Jupitus said he did not look back on the political scene of the 1980s with any great affection but he was perhaps even more deeply demoralised by today.

"The way politics is now there is no passion in it," he told i. "For everything that was wrong with Thatcher and her cabinet they were clearly defined, identifiable characters. I challenge any of your readers to name six people in the Cabinet today."

Jupitus, who has appeared in the musicals Spamalot and Hairspray, admitted that he also struggled to define what the big society actually was. "I don't even understand what he means by it," he said. "It's something that sounded good to a focus group."

And describing the disillusion of the Blair years as "the same" he urged working people to remember the struggles of the past.

"This notion that trade unions are wrong is endemic in society at the moment that they are somehow bad people," he said. "But we wouldn't have any employment rights if it wasn't for trade-union activists at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

"Women wouldn't have rights. There wouldn't be a lunch break there wouldn't be tea breaks. People wouldn't have holidays."