Sunday, 25 April 2010

Pressure Drop.

In the evening went with Trevor, Patsy and Ben to the Wellcome Trust on Euston Road to see Mick Gordon and Billy Bragg's collaboration Pressure Drop - part gig and part play all staged in promenade within the gallery space there.

The play followed the theme of Billy's book A Progressive Patriot and examined the appropriation of 'Englishness' by the far right.

The funeral of Ron, a veteran of the second world war, brings back together an East End family to remember the good times and look to the future. Jack, used to work at the car plant, and now struggling to earn enough money to keep his family, is toying with becoming a BNP councillor. Younger brother Jon managed to get out and works as a successful trader in New York; whilst their old school friend Tony, the most thoroughly developed of the characters, a man whose own son was killed by a road side bomb on duty in Afghanistan, agitates and provokes. As the drink flows in The Bull, the temperature rises and Jon begins to learns that the town he left behind twenty years ago seems on the brink of meltdown.

The work seemed nostalgic both in terms of style and contact. Like Shane Meadows excellent movie This is England. The piece suggests that the critical moment when multicultural Britain fractured came from Thatcher's 1979 victory and the resulting unrest of the early eighties, signified clearly by the dislocation of black and white music. The Pressure Drop of the title references The Clash's cover of the sixties reggae hit by The Maytals. It's played as if it were a line in the sand.

Nonetheless with Billy Bragg operating as a frontman and guide, a wonderful songbook interrcutting the action and a dialectical text with a clear political agenda there were echoes of both Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and the Theatre in Education movement of the seventies and eighties.

It's always good to feel the solidarity of others who want to stand up against racism and I sensed that all of us in the audience arrived sympathetic to the play's cause.

However, this is also a consciousness raising piece that, in the build up to an election, where both Nick Griffin and Richard Barnbrook are peddling their poison in the East End, should leave the comfort of the arts centre and head for the secondary schools and pubs of Barking and Dagenham.