Josie Long

Josie Long

In 1999, Josie Long won the BBC New Comedy Award at the age of just 17 - making her too young for the champagne that came as part of the prize. Despite the boost the award would have given to her comedy career, she took time off performing to complete her English degree at Oxford university, returning in 2003.

Following the break, she was named best newcomer in the Chortle awards in 2005, and best breakthrough act the following year. In 2006, she also scooped best newcomer in the if.comedy awards for her solo Edinburgh debut, Kindness and Exuberance.

She was subsequently nominated for the Edinburgh comedy award three years running: 2010, 2011 and 2012.

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Josie Long and Liam Williams in Perimeter

Radio preview by Steve Bennett

Radio 4’ s Dangerous Visions series of dystopian stories has given comedians a couple of bits of work. Last week Tom Basden starred as Gregor Samsa, the man who awakes one morning to find himself a giant bug, in a new adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which played up the surreal comic elements of the masterpiece.

And now Liam Williams has teamed up with Josie Long for Perimeter, a comedy play, set in a future that unambiguously sets out the way both comedians see society is heading. In their near-future, the city split by a giant, electrified fence. Just like the one Donald Trump has wet dreams about, it divides the haves on one side, from the have-nots on the other. 

As writers, the pair didn’t get too creative with the names of the characters they play, Josie and Liam, siblings from the wrong side of the tracks. They timeshare a room which costs them almost all of their income, which they hand over to Collette, a spoiled teenager of aloof privilege, inheriting a property portfolio and isolated from the world by her headphones and constant social media vanity.

Josie is the campaigner, forever protesting the fence; Liam more sanguine – or apathetic – knowing that the division is unfair, but believing the status quo is so ingrained it can never be overturned. Meanwhile, for all their poverty, Josie remains merrily upbeat, again hardly a far cry from her stand-up persona.

That cheeriness lands her a job on the other side of the fence, as a ‘happiness coach’ for Collette’s mum Marie-Anne-Anne-Marie, certain that there’s something missing despite her life of unimaginable comfort. And on that story pivot, Josie’s protests become more muted as she becomes the tiniest cog in the machine she still, on principle, despises. But Liam’s character changes, too, as the disparity between the haves and have-nots is thrown into sharp contrast.

The story therefore has much to say about the nature of dissent, and how it’s down to individuals maintaining their own passions for fighting injustice rather than satisfied from whatever crumbs the weighted system may hand you. But it’s not too preachy, thanks to lively and witty dialogue, so that even though the conclusion of the story doesn’t seem especially rewarding, the political messages are entertainingly delivered while we get there.

•  Dangerous Visions: Perimeter airs on Radio 4 at 2.15pm today and will then be available here.  And Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which also starred  Felicity Montagu, Emma Sidi and Tim Key, is available here.

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Published: 30 Jun 2017

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