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Josie Long: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

You can tell Josie Long hasn’t been a leftist campaigner for long. She became politicised by the Coalition taking power two years ago, and is already frustrated that her activism hasn’t turned the world entirely against the Tories, the ‘obvious baddies’ in her binary world. Clearly no one told her about the lifetime of struggle when she signed up for the cause.

‘It feels so unfair!’ she wails like a petulant pre-teen denied her second bowl of ice-cream, when actually talking about the dismantling of social assets, including the NHS. The childish image is completed by her nervy habit of tugging away distractedly at her T-shirt, a technique that renders her unchallenging, whatever politics she may spout.

Impatiently aggravated by the lack of political progress, she turns much of this hour on to her own personal progress, her mind focussed by turning 30. She wonders why, at such an advanced age, she finds herself living in a trendy warehouse conversion she hates, unable to drive and with nothing much to her life except a job she enjoys. She isn’t really sure of much anymore, and a ridiculous online ‘Things To Do By The Time You’re 30’ list gives her no direction – but quite a lot of material.

Eventually this turns back to politics again: publicly-owned open spaces, libraries, hospitals give her  a sense of security and belonging that she now knows she has to put up a fight for.

Getting there, she leaps around between topics, boasting of her mountain-climbing exploits, adoring French socialism or delivering an hilarious Ed Miliband routine, in which she imagines him casting off his ineffectual manner to expose himself as some socialist mobster, getting heavy with the mega-wealthy. It’s a dense show as ideas and routines clamour for attention, and she enthusiastically name-checks the likes of Vonnegut, Larkin, Alistair Gray and Logan’s Run. This is an hour which again comes with its own reading list – contained in the home-drawn programmes she still hands out.

But it’s a bit of a scattergun approach, too, without the explicit driving force of last year’s excellent show about her political awakening – even though she has a way of sneaking in politics even when the audience is distracted by something else, and ultimately making all the elements slide into place.

The result is that the ideas and stories are more satisfying in the long run, once all this has time to settle in the brain, rather than at the time you’re watching it, when the flurry of information feels a little cacophonous.

Eventually she reaches the conclusion of the various parts – a message to herself and fellow activists, to hang on in there – a point reached far more circuitously, intelligently and wittily than just showing us a  picture of a cat clinging on to a branch.

Review date: 7 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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