Disaffected and disenfranchised after the million-strong Stop The War march failed to prevent the government invading Iraq, Chris Coltrane was depressed to realise that the only political manifesto he could summon up enthusiasm for was the Monster Raving Loony Party’s chocolate policy. But then he joined UKUncut and rediscovered his activism.
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As this engaging free show makes clear, direct action can be enjoyable and inspiring, not least when sticking it to tax-avoiding corporations like Vodafone and Topshop in blockades of their stores. Taking over a branch of NatWest and turning it into a library; setting up an impromptu comedy club in Barclays – Coltrane, not a natural rebel, found himself fired up for the fight.
Told with passion and delight in the more absurd episodes – Uncut’s racing of cardboard Formula One cars down Oxford Street is eclipsed by the trumped-up charges police tried to pin on protesters at Fortnum & Mason, with their intimidating tactics said to have included holding beachballs and umbrellas – he is withering, too, on the current administration’s cuts and creeping privatisation, suggesting Dr Harold Shipman would have made an efficient NHS adviser in the new regime.
The agitprop is backed by some pretty depressing facts but he keeps it entertaining, due in no small part to a self-mocking streak that acknowledges a show pledging to “smash the Tories” needs a few jokes in it. He frames the complex economic and political machinations through the personal, introducing himself via his bisexuality and humanising his engagement.
The obvious precursors for a show like this are the mischievous, policy-pressuring campaigns of Mark Thomas. And in the public humiliation of Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HMRC and the man who brokered Vodafone’s sweetheart tax deal, Uncut pull off a similarly stunning coup. Moreover, they prompt the right-wing press and even ITV’s Loose Women to start asking awkward questions.
You may not share Coltrane’s anger or politics, but you can’t fault the style with which he articulates them.
Until today, 2:15pm.