Corbyn the Musical review: An alluring portrayal of Labour's leader if at times predictable

James Nickerson
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Martin Neely plays Jeremy Corbyn (Source: Rupert Myers)

A drains and manhole covers enthusiast, the imagined life of a future Jeremy Corbyn takes a sudden turn when he’s elected Prime Minister and confronted with a nuclear threat posed by his onetime admirer Vladimir Putin.

Why is Putin outraged? That would be telling.

But luckily for Corbyn, he’s got Diane Abbott by his side, as he reminisces over their past love affair and motorcycle ride through the former German Democratic Republic to help him solve the problem.

The result, Corbyn the Musical: The Motorcycle Diaries, is a play writers Rupert Myers and Bobby Friedman say is complete fiction.

While inspired by real events, you can’t help but think Corbyn wishes his life was as easy as it is in the musical, given (take a deep breath): his controversial economic and social policies including renationalisation, attendance at a Stop the War coalition dinner, failure to tackle anti-Semitism and bitter battles with his party on a range of key issues including Trident that led to a “hostility list”.

Yet I’d be lying if the play didn’t make me feel a bit fuzzy inside about the man who makes and pots his own jam. Especially when he (literally) sings the praises of Islington, quinoa and tofu.

The same can’t be said of others. Boris Johnson's character is the leader of the opposition who reckons himself a ladies man and Diane Abbott is cast as a hypocrite, while warmongering Tony Blair is willing to do anything for a pay cheque.

The musical portrays Corbyn as his own man, unmoving in his principles. That's why the writers say the young Corbyn they depict during flashbacks to his past life would have reacted in the same way as the man today if confronted with the same problem.

Was it unfair to create a satirical musical about him? True enough, the script shoots down those on both the left and right, but the Tories have been dogged by their own problems of late, with Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation and another embarrassing Budget climbdown, a huge dispute with the NHS and the Boris versus Dave saga seemingly never ending.

So would there be room for a “Dave the Musical: How a young Etonian defied the odds and became PM”, where Cameron uses his inherited money to buy favour and a pig farm? Maybe there is, given how quickly this play sold out.

Myers jokes that its speedy ticket sales were thanks to Corbynmania, rather than anything to do with him. He’s probably right: it’s an amusing play, funny at times, with a few stand out songs (David Muscat as Vladimir Putin singing "Laika"). For a politics geek, it's a decent evening.

But it’s no The Thick of It or The Book of Mormon, which it is inspired by. The lyrics – while comical – are somewhat obvious, and at moments the play can drag, with some scenes that the audience would be able to do without - though Myers tells me they might cut it down.

Still, that’s probably not why Corbyn still hasn’t accepted an invitation to attend.

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