ON A balmy evening in a canal-side pub garden, an audience of a hundred or so are singing William Blake’s Jerusalem.That's not funny!
They’ve been encouraged to do so by four women — two of them played by men — who are telling the somewhat surprising story of the Women’s Institute and its contribution to feminism, women’s liberation and pie making. This is political theatre, Jim, but definitely not as we know it.
Since 1972 The Mikron theatre have been taking such self-made musical shows by narrow boat and the occasional van to unlikely locations like canal-side pubs, allotments, village halls and even hospices all over the country. Recently another Morning Star reviewer caught One of Each, their play set in a fish and chip shop, and hugely enjoyed it.Wonder if all those patrons they snuck up on did.
Any play charting the 100-year history of the WI must include jam, Jerusalem, nude calendars and a recipe for rabbit pie and Raising Agents doesn’t disappoint in this respect. But it also includes the WI’s active campaigning on the Bastardy Bill, women’s health education and VD, unemployment and equal pay, Aids, Thatcher the milk-snatcher, banning the bomb, recycling, Greenham Common and a whole lot more.And that's the best line.
Written by Maeve Larkin and directed by Marianne McNamara, it’s got some right-on politics and music hall-style bawdy humour, summed up by the best line in the show: “We are the women who gave Tony Blair the clap!”