Getting home from the theatre and sticking the news on, I was thrown for several seconds by the familiarity of Nick Clegg’s dulcet tones. Then I realised I’d just spent the evening with him in Nick Clegg the musical, also known as Nicked. This hilarious new show takes a satirical look at the Coalition Government, creating a bold, up-to-the-minute snapshot of Britain’s political landscape. In fact it’s so current that the first weekend of the High Tide Festival saw only the first act performed, with the second being reliant on the outcome of the AV referendum of 5 May.
Nicked, based on a book and lyrics by Richard Marsh, tells the story of the Coalition, from a difficult conception of back-room deals and back-stabbing, to its fragility today, though a chaotic whirl of singing and dancing. But it is also the story of one man; Jason Langley gives a fantastic performance as Nick Clegg, foolhardy and easily-led, yet somehow demanding real sympathy from us. Sam Hodges makes a slickly believable Cameron, while the rest of the cast take multiple roles, switching with the help of partisan ties and party-specific lighting. A personified Britannia, Amy Booth-Steel wears a punk-feathered helmet in a symbol of disillusioned national spirit worn down by politicians’ lies and fiscal misery.
The urban beats provided by Rogue Nouveau (Natalie Shepherd) give Nicked a fast-paced, exciting energy. Music and dance power the show, fuelling Marsh’s hilariously incongruous scenes. A glittery-collared David Cameron raps to the Tory right wingers over Osbourne’s beat-boxing. The passionate duet between Cameron and Clegg reminded me of a bull-fight or a courtship dance of advance and retreat, step and side-step as each vies to impress his political opponent and to claim the advantage. This is politics you can dance too, and it works wonderfully as satire, a good balance of wit and cruelty brought to life with the energy of the urban score and slick dance moves.
Nicked has some great one-liners, from Clegg’s “I colour inside David’s lines”, to Ed Milliband’s assessment of the Labour leadership contest: “Our hearts are slightly differently on the Left”. Cameron jeers at the winner, “You’re going home in a Tory ambulance”. Nicked mocks the Coalition, but also has a more serious side. Cameron’s “one man, one vote; you don’t get two because you’re racist”, and Clegg’s desperate attempts to get Proportional Representation followed by the poor compromise that is Alternative Vote, feed into the final scene in which we are exhorted to stand up for what we believe in. As the lights dim Clegg pleads with us to protest, not simply to sit and calmly watch, but to get involved.
The performance was a little unpolished, understandable at such an early stage, but nevertheless full of promise. My only concern is that such a current show will date quickly once the issue of AV fades in the fickle public memory. It is hard to see how the issues it raises would be as relevant, as moving, several months or a year from now. I fear that elements of Nicked may have a short shelf-life, but then we always enjoy laughing at our leaders, whether they be dead or alive, politically speaking.
Nicked premiered at the High Tide Festival in Halesworth.