The Big Society emerges at last – as a musical

Phill Jupitus to star in theatrical send-up of the Prime Minister's grand concept

You've heard the soundbite, you've 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, the guitarist with Chumbawamba, the band whose former lead singer, Danbert Nobacon, famously 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's production seeks to draw parallels with 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 elitist 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 the socialist pin-ups Paul Weller and Billy Bragg.

In an interview with The Independent, Jupitus admitted that while he did not look back on the political scene of the 1980s with any great affection, he was perhaps even more deeply demoralised by today's system.

"The way politics is now there is no passion in it. 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," he said.

Jupitus, who as well as being a panel show regular on QI and The News Quiz has appeared in the musicals Spamalot and Hairspray, admitted that he too struggled to define what the Big Society actually was. "I don't even understand what he [Mr Cameron] means by it. It's something that sounded good to a focus group," he said.

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. 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.

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

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