UKIP Media Attention Skyrockets

Satirical column for ‘The Whip’, November 2016

My fellow patriots, it’s finally happened! In a true turn up for the proverbial books, UKIP will have some rudimentary media coverage!

This is totally unprecedented. The liberal elite rulers of this now great nation have never given We The People (WTP) a voice, even though a recent survey found that a statistical group of actual people support UKIP. It is about time we stuck up for The Little Guy (TLG), because We Want Our Country Back (WWOCB)!

Now let’s be absolutely clear about this. UKIP has never been represented in the media because the metropolitan liberal educated cosmopolitan sneering elite Establishment Neapolitan avocado hug-a-Hungarian-and-a-frappucino types have never given us a voice. UKIP has never been properly represented in the media. Nigel Farage makes this point every week in his columns for the Express and the Independent, and the last 30 times he’s been on Question Time David Dimbleby has picked questions from people biased against UKIP. It’s classic BBC libtard prejudice. There’s even a report that they pack Question Time audiences full of lefties (I’ll link you it when it gets made).

It’s about time the metrolites heard the voice of TLG (The Little Guy). It’s about time that we had some Real Facts (RF) and Myth Busting (MB) in our national debate, rather than the sneering sneers of BBC sneerers who won’t even let UKIP supporters into Broadcasting House.

Just last week, for example, I was having a coffee in one of the Broadcasting House kitchens, when a well-known BBC journalist walked in. I immediately gave him some RF: I said a point he’d made on immigration last night was wrong, and informed him that immigrants actually drain our economy by claiming benefits rather than working. Just like all the cosmoliberals, this man was so prejudiced that he gave me a report saying immigrants make a net contribution to the economy – and he had the cheek to prove it with facts!

I mean, you can prove anything with facts, can’t you?

This is the problem, my dear UKIP-ites: for too long this country has been ruled by people with no grip of reality. They simply don’t understand the pressure immigrant families put on our pavements if they’re overweight – (which all of them are. It’s FAcT). They simply don’t understand that our primary schools are full of Eastern Europeans, that our stomachs are full of Polish mystery meat, and that the country is full of immigrants!

Is it a coincidence that ‘liberal’ almost rhymes with ‘evil’? I think not.

And just to be clear, I’m not a racist. As if. One of my best mates is a Pole. He cleans my house every Tuesday. I think his name is Frederic.

So here’s to us, my fellow patriots, as finally UKIP gets its chance to voice its opinions in the media! Check in every week for some RF and MB, because WWOCB 4 TLG!

Hugh Kip

 

 

Political Selfishness And Why We Should All Be Feminists

Calling yourself a feminist if you’re not a woman seems odd to some people. It can seem even more odd if you’re male, white, straight and middle class, the only members of society not to fit into an identity movement and therefore the ones least expected to support an identity movement. To the minds of some, calling yourself a feminist if you’re not a woman is a denial of truth, because to them ‘self’ (or ‘selfishness’) and ‘other’ are two entirely separate things that do not correlate. What other people do has nothing to do with you, and vice versa. Therefore to claim that you care for other people, such as through the lens of feminism, is a denial of your inherent selfishness, which neither cares for nor so much as coincides with others.

We live in an age of selfish individualism, made to believe that ‘vice is a virtue’ and sheer egotism is the only ‘genuine’ way to live. It might therefore seem logical for the dominant male class to dislike feminism, because we’ve had it drilled into us that human beings want nothing but power for themselves. We have been told that helping others is not only wrong, but unnatural: hence the prevalence of Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Selfish Gene’ in modern political discourse.

So why should I, as a member of the straight, white, male middle classes, call myself a feminist? Is it because I’m an egotist wanting to pose as a social justice warrior? Or because I can’t see that all feminists are man-hating fanatics? Or is it because I am genuinely selfless?

The answer, funnily enough, is the precise opposite of all these things. I am a feminist because I am selfish.

What we do not acknowledge in political conversations about human nature is that there are two kinds of selfishness: selfish selfishness and selfless selfishness. The first kind tends to attract people who believe that human behaviour is determined mostly from birth – biological determinists, those who favour nature over nurture. It results naturally from believing that the environment we’re born into is largely irrelevant, because human nature is innate and our behaviour unchangeable. As such it makes sense to only be concerned with yourself because other people cannot be altered by what goes on around them. ‘Best just to leave them alone – trying to help will only weigh you down.’

Selfless selfishness, on the other hand, is the kind that understands that human relationships are inter-relational; that is to say that the way one person behaves to another will condition the way they behave back. If, for example, I am dismissive and condescending to you all the time, you will probably get angry at me and we will have a bad relationship. But if I am always considerate, making sure that you are as happy as you can be, chances are you will do the same back to me and we will both benefit from the relationship.

This is the basis for my being a feminist: that what I am involves what you are. If I look after you then you will look after me, because my happiness is your happiness.

It is plainly obvious that we live in a world in which women and minorities are second-class citizens while the white, male middle classes work a system that was designed for them. Most women experience some form of harassment on a weekly or often daily basis; they often find themselves being talked over, being paid less and, at the extreme end, being victim-blamed for crimes like rape. They face a media onslaught about how they ought to look, how they ought to behave and how they ought to treat men. Mentalhealth.org says women are more likely than men to have a mental health disorder, and twice as likely to suffer from anxiety.

And the thing is of course that men suffer from many of the same things. Body image issues, mental illness, sexual violence and the immense pressure to ‘man up’ and not address your emotions are all linked to how we see ourselves as men. And these gender problems are not separate. Masculinity and femininity are two halves of the same whole: if you want to change one then you have to change both.

So on the emotional level we can see that it makes sense for you to help out the other gender. But, vitally, it also makes sense on the economic and political level.

In a report entitled ‘Women, Work and the Economy’, the IMF pointed out that gender inequality in the workplace is losing countries money. It claims that closing gender gaps in the labour market would earn the USA an annual extra 5% in GDP, the UAE another 12%, and Egypt a whole 34%. Business In The Community reports that companies in all sectors with the most women on their boards significantly and consistently outperform those with fewer. Similarly, the International Finance Corporation found that better employment for women can contribute to increased productivity and profitability. From there, with more income and financial independence, women can also increase household spending.

And, on the political level, having more women in government will not only come closer to achieving actual representative democracy, but female politicians often prioritise issues that can be overlooked by their male counterparts, which in turn can lead to broader political debate.

The evidence that it is in all our interests to invest in women, the poor and ethnic, sexual and cultural minorities is extremely compelling. It is stone-cold logical for men to be invested in women’s issues because it will solve our problems as well, and exactly the same goes for class, sexuality, race and every other social category under the sun. They all carry their own problems and those problems affect all of us; therefore, if we want to solve our own problems, we must help others solve theirs.

If we want to live in a more efficient, productive and happy society, we need to invest both financially and emotionally in one another. We do not do that through inequality and self-interest; we do it through equality and giving to other people.

The principle is clear: the more you give away, the more you receive.

‘A View From The Bridge’ Review @ UBU Winston Theatre

The West has a fear of immigrants; so how do we retell the stories that tell us how moving away from home can kill?

In the same week in which we once again saw American xenophobia write itself into law, Arthur Miller’s hard and fast immigrant tragedy came to life in Bristol’s Winston Theatre. But, rather like how prejudice always appears to be in a different guise but is fundamentally always the same, this latest retelling of the classic tale has been made into a terrific spectacle whilst barely wavering from what Miller called the “one long line of explosion” that is the plot.

Now it is no easy thing to make a spectacle of a ‘sitting room’ drama, so it is true testament to director Sam Jones that this production achieved it. At the beginning of Act I the audience are introduced to a set in which the centre-stage and backdrop are white and the wings and downstage are black, with the kitchen table, chairs and even vinyl player all a stark white. The theme of colour coordination becomes apparent with the white-overalled Eddie, the grey-skirted Bea and the pink-skirted Catherine, and enacted out of this is a delightful visual metaphor that slowly but surely begins to first reflect and then dominate the plot: with every moment a character displays anger a piece of set is either torn up or coated in paint, leaving a visual scar to remind us of the emotional denigration occurring before our eyes. As symbolically as you like, dutiful housewife Bea attempts to clean up in the quieter scenes, but as Eddie’s psychological condition disintegrates so too does the set – no more so than in a gorgeously gripping sequence in which the chorus, who appear largely to represent Eddie’s mental state, tear off the backdrop to reveal a wall graffitied with words like ‘snitch, coward, rat’. Together with the visual symbolism are the eery sound effects that accompany light changes, the two of which go to create an aesthetic the Winston audience could gorge their senses with.

Ned Costello puts in a marvellous and unforgiving performance as Eddie Carbone; like a hammer that disintegrates with every blow, Costello starts the play thumping about the stage and only very gently and very skilfully begins to let Eddie’s inner vulnerability seep through. Alice Hoskyns as Bea and Phoebe Campbell as Catherine put in similarly assured and sensitive performances, Hoskyns shivering with delight when Catherine lands a job as a stenographer and Campbell achieving that adolescent tempestuousness in her relationship with Rudolpho. Special mention must go to Jonas Moore and Tullio Campanale, who, as Rudolpho and Marco respectively, light up the script with their simultaneously hilarious and conflicted characters. Moore in particular achieves a sweet obliviousness that contrasts perfectly with the blunt jealousy of Costello’s Eddie, the indelicate nature of which is in turn contrasted with the sage Alfieri, played with an air of nostalgia by the quietly authoritative Nathan Sames.

DramSoc’s ‘A View From the Bridge’ is undoubtedly excellent: it is visually fascinating and it threads the psychological needle so subtly that you only realise how absorbed you are when you find yourself jumping out your seat. The only clear problem is that it sometimes fails to punch when it needs to; the second half in particular suffers from strange periods of slowness when really the pace ought to be rising exponentially. Other than that and perhaps the odd moment of actors lacking confidence, this is a superb production that deserves to be seen.

4 ****

Review From The Bridge

When writing the play, Arthur Miller made excessively clear that ‘A View From The Bridge’ was not about one actor, and especially not one that wasn’t even in the script. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that the audience at the Winston Theatre entered to find an enormous painting of Guy Woods’s face on the set.

Obviously one cannot draw conclusions simply from the way a stage looks – that would be like judging a book by its cover, which is the sort of thing only a person who can’t read would do. But the shock rose to fever pitch when it became apparent that this entire play was about Guy Woods.

Now not many people really knew who Guy Woods was, but we were told through an acting masterclass in Alfieri’s opening speech that he is a first year Drama student who apparently didn’t want to be in the play but is entrapped in a complicated situation involving an animal trafficking cartel in Central Asia and thus was forced to be a member of the chorus. Chorus members are typically known for not having any lines and generally being more forgettable than what I had for lunch yesterday (couscous), so we could not believe our ears when it turned out that every single sentence had been altered to be about Guy Woods. Because this production was so obscenely about Guy Woods, I’m going to write the rest of this review based on what Guy Woods didn’t do.

Ned Costello’s acting, it has to be said, was superb – no thanks to Guy Woods. He was like a great blunt instrument striding about the stage, saying it like it is and not taking no for answer – unlike Guy Woods. Particularly excellent was the moment in which he picked up the chair – which I doubt Guy Woods could have done. Alice Hoskyns was also outstanding as Bea, as she wore a grey skirt – again not because of Guy Woods. Also the music was great. Special mention must go to Jonas Moore and Tullio Campanale as Rudolpho and Marco respectively – with absolutely no thanks to Guy Woods. They had a magnificent brotherly relationship – which is the kind of thing I imagine Guy Woods dreams of doing but probably can’t unless he’s actually with his brother. And Phoebe Campbell was great.

Also good was the set, which was not designed by Guy Woods. The most poignant moment of the play occurred when Eddie died and the backdrop fell on him and all the cast – which might have been an accident, in which case it was probably the fault of Guy Woods. It was a mark of an extra special production that the audience actually cheered when a bucket of paint was thrown over the front row – admittedly by Guy Woods, but I’m trying to forget about it.

This was a very good show, but not because of Guy Woods.

5 *****

Freddie Falls Down

“Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world”.

It was almost immediately after entering the birthday party of a friend on his course at university that Freddie realised his ex-girlfriend was present.

It took little more than a seemingly careless but actually anxious glance about the large, Victorian sitting room to notice that familiar bob of brilliant blonde hair, swaying in layers behind the face his lips had previously been so known to, and that was in the habit of glowing. And although she did not see him and there were bodies of people blocking his view, he could tell she was standing beside a boy, and that they were involved with one another.

Freddie immediately retreated to the kitchen, where he began to roll a cigarette to keep his attention off whomever else might be in the room. His housemate Ben followed him.

‘You alright, mate?’ asked Ben, following suit on the cigarette.

‘Izzy’s here.’

‘Oh…’ Ben paused, waiting for Freddie’s face to tell him what to say. Freddie stared down at his tobacco. ‘I mean – do you want to stay?’

‘Yeah, yeah I’ll stay, I mean – I’ll just avoid her. No point in letting your night get ruined just because there’s someone you don’t like there.’

‘Yeah, true.’

But facts are rarely as simple as statements, and as Freddie smoked his cigarette he slipped quietly but uncomfortably into the busy spots of his mind.

After a few minutes-

‘I might have another cigarette actually-‘

‘Alright man, I’m heading inside. See you in there.’

There were scores of people around him, a wash of bright young faces beating in swirls and eddies in the small, square excuse for a garden. In between them there was a cheap flow of conversation, a dead-weighted collection of symbols, and it spurted and limped out of their mouths like so much fodder for a bored mind. Beyond the pool of poorly lit humans and circling cigarette ends, up in the fringe before the earth gave way to the immense mystery of the night sky, there was a collection of lights embedded in the shady silhouettes of houses, watching bleakly down on the disinterested.

Freddie stared into the night as he dragged on his cigarette.

What was it that was so bothersome about seeing an old girlfriend with another boy? All of a sudden the flames of fancy had caught him again as he stared despondently at his imagination. It made him feel inadequate somehow; it was as if he had been replaced by someone who could do the job better.

And what did he do, this new man? Did he touch her better than he did? Did his fingers excite more static when they brushed down her arm? Did he make her feel more secure than him? Did he produce a brighter spark when he struck against stone?

He hadn’t even been that into Izzy when they were seeing each other.

Remember that!? You didn’t even like her that much! All she had been was the latest stop-gap in the series of dispassionate hook-ups that had punctuated his life up til now; she hadn’t been much more than another girl to have sex and coffee with. It wasn’t necessarily that he wanted it to be that way, but that was always how it seemed to turn out. Certainly at the beginning he had posed those absurd questions that every new romance asks: ‘Will this be love?’ ‘Could this be a family?’ ‘Will she be the person who understands me?’

Nonsensical, ridiculous questions. Of course they were. And yet somehow, by some stupid fault of the mind, they ended up being asked anyway. And now as Freddie lit up his second cigarette, he found himself wondering about them again. Had he missed something about her? Why was she coming back to haunt him now?

There was a window to his right hand side, and after a quick check to make sure there was no one he knew about him, he subtly leant against the wall and peaked into the sitting room full of people.

At first he could see nothing, but then – aha! – there she was! Exactly where he had left her. She was still talking to this new man, whom Freddie now narrowed a precise eye on. He was definitely a student, no doubt about that; he was no older than twenty-one or two, wearing a purple and turquoise adidas jacket and black jeans and holding a can of cheap beer in his large, noticeably hairy hands. In fact he seemed to exude hair; there was something about him that was just so incredibly hairy. His hair wasn’t long, and his facial hair, if you looked closely, was only stubble, but somehow he seemed so much hairier than he actually was. Why did he seem so hairy? Freddie stared acutely at his face, which was leaned over, half-beaming down into Izzy’s backwards smile, a grin punctuated by moments that could have been laughter.

An explosion of fury happened in Freddie’s chest – 1, 2, 3! – he caught himself and counted his breaths to keep it in.

What was so great about this hairy bastard? Yes he was tall and dark, and (he supposed) quite handsome in a vagrant sort of way – but he was no Freddie was he?

Rather than get caught up in that train of thought he now swung his eyes to look at the girl, though there was someone in front of her, got to wait for her to move, then they’re gone and AH FUCK she looked beautiful!

He tore himself away and caught his breath once more. His cigarette had gone out – no, it had been smoked – so he set about rolling himself another. Then, paranoid someone would speak to him, he pretended to be on his phone as he slipped himself into the darkest corner of the garden, where he could look over the wall onto the train line on the other side.

Oh no, why did she have to look so beautiful? He swore she’d never looked that good the whole time they’d been going out.

But had they really been ‘going out’? It hadn’t really been a proper relationship, had it? It was four months long – which, he supposed, is a reasonable amount of time – but it had never been official, as such. They had never met one another’s parents, or been introduced as ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’. It was one of those relationships that goes unlabelled so long that you don’t notice it until it ends.

And it really hadn’t been special at all… That was the thing. He was so ambivalent about her at the time that he had never even been certain whether to spend his evenings alone or with her. Yes, she had performed everything as best a masculine boy could hope: she was entertaining, beautiful, good in bed and perfect for showing off to his friends; but she wasn’t engaging. Very few things in the world engaged Freddie any more, even at the age of twenty-one, and Izzy was one of the many things that, until now, did not.

But she was definitely something a bit special, he could see that much. She was the kind of girl who smiled at strangers and walked through doors first; a veritable symbol of a girl, the kind of image any boy of taste would like to pin on his wall. But had he wasted her?

As he rolled his third cigarette, it occurred to him what it was he had enjoyed most from being with Izzy. It had been showing her off. He adored the way his friend’s faces piqued at the sight of her, how men would sometimes turn in the street for her, how she seemed to raise him up in the eyes of the world. He wore her like a medal around his neck.

For Freddie, you see, was one of these unfortunate young men who do what all young men are trained to do: turn women into the yard sticks for measuring their own worth.

And as such he thought that, as a woman, as a thing that he had won with his handsomeness, his charm, his perfectly performed masculinity, she ought to offer him something more than she did. He felt like she ought to have given him some kind of revelation, some kind of fundamental insight into life that no other thing could possibly give him; but by the end of the four months all he had experienced was distance and frustration, and the relationship ended silently, without so much as a word said between them.

And now he wondered, as he saw this girl, this newly beautified thing in the gaze of another man, where was the revelation she offered him?

He hadn’t found it on her when she had been naked. It sometimes seemed as though she was carrying it when she was clothed, but then the clothes came off and, after a half hour of intense, orgastic excitement, he once again saw her with naked eyes. And even when he remembered that touch, the febrile clarity of her body beating beside him, he was not transported anywhere but his own mind. He wondered if perhaps the right combination of drink, drugs and setting would grant him access to it –

he often envisaged a warm summer evening, some kind of party – a festival or a wedding – with promising spots of amber light playing with the colourful decorations about wherever they were; the girl, any girl, walking towards him excitedly, her barely containable smile hinting at the mountainous ecstasy they could both feel pulsing in their faces. In her very look was everything he desired from the world outside him: pure, total, loving understanding, the sort of gorgeous intuition that allowed her to know him as well as a mind can, and that told him over and over again that everything, everywhere, forever, was alright.

Women carried the potential for revelation, he was certain of that. But it infuriated him that he had been unable to find this thing in any of the girls he had known intimacy with, who had shared with him their dark, secret nakedness, and yet whom he had been uninterested in thereafter. Why hadn’t he been able to find something in these women?

It must be his own inadequacy.

His third cigarette at an end, Freddie glanced over his shoulder to see who was there; then he quickly made his way back inside, through the kitchen and back to the sitting room to find Ben. Ben was standing with a group of their mates, and after a quick round of greetings, he flicked his eyes over the crowd to look once again, agonisingly, at the couple.

They were still in the same place. The boy put a hand on her arm and she immediately, almost flinchingly, put her hand on his; and she looked at him with this rosy smile, so goddamn rosy, in fact the very same smile that must have looked at him a thousand bloody times but that he had never been able to understand.

Well now he understood!

He wanted to scream from his chest, or communicate through some silent way, that he could see it now, he had the perspective, the right angle, he had found the correct window, and now he could see the girl he wanted. She wasn’t there before, but now she was, in all her guilt-laden beauty. She was now the girl he might once have imagined her to be. But fantasies are like a flower: you pick it because it is beautiful, and throw it away because it has died.

Freddie’s mind fell silent for a few seconds. All his dreams wilting before him, he experienced one of those rare moments in which you can see what is actually there before you. And all he saw was a human. No special glaze, no romantic screen; no beauty on top of what was really there. She was just a human, and so was Freddie. There was no difference between them. And that was just about the moment that Freddie realised –

‘Screw this,’ he said all of a sudden. ‘I don’t need other people to make me happy.’

And he left, very, very swiftly.

Gatsby Gets Got

A ten-minute script for ‘LitLive’, November 2016.

The climactic scene of The Great Gatsby in the Plaza Hotel. Enter TOM, DAISY, JORDAN and GATSBY.

Daisy:  Oh gosh, Tom, it’s so hot! Open another window.

Tom:   There aren’t any more.

Daisy:  Then telephone room service for an axe.

Jordan: I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it – over-ripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.

Gatsby: Beautiful, Jordan.

Jordan: Thank you, Gatsby. I was thinking about entering it into the East Egg poetry competition, but you need to pay an entrance fee of money over 300 years old for that.

Tom:   Anyone for a mint julep?

Daisy:  I would love one.

Jordan: I haven’t any cash on me.

Gatsby: That’s alright, Daisy’s voice is made of money.

Tom:   I see you’ve been listening to my wife’s voice very intently.

Gatsby: You’ve gone a bit green, Mr Buchanan. I like looking at green things.

Tom:   Don’t you dare suggest I’m one of those filthy green-skins, Mr Gatsby.

Daisy:  I suppose I am a bit husky today-

Tom:   Civilisation’s going to pieces. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Green Empires’ by this man Goddard?

Gatsby: Why, no?

Tom:   Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged. By the green people! It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved. Next thing you know they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between green and white.

Daisy:  Tom’s gotten awfully green lately.

Tom:   Mr Gatsby, would you care to fetch us some ice from next door?

Gatsby: I would be delighted.

(Exits).

Jordan:           What on earth are you playing at, Tom?

Tom:               As it happens, Jordan, I’ve made a small investigation of this fellow – a small investigation into his past –

Jordan:           And you found he was an Oxford man?

Tom:               An Oxford man! Oxford, New Mexico, he wears a pink suit!

Daisy:              Listen, Tom. If you’re such a snob, why did you invite him to lunch?

Tom:               Because, Daisy, I have something very serious to reveal about his past.

Daisy:              What?

Tom:               Oh, yes. I discovered something very, very sinister about this man, more sinister than anything I’ve ever encountered before.

Jordan:           But what on earth is it?

Tom:               Oh, just you wait, Jordan, just you wait. It’s going to blow your socks off.

(Re-enter GATSBY)

Gatsby:           They’re out of ice.

Tom:               And out of luck as well.

Gatsby:           Why, whatever do you mean, old sport?

Tom:               Oh, nothing. By the way, Mr Gatsby, I understand you’re an Oxford man.

Gatsby:           Yes – I went there.

(Pause).

Tom:               (Under his breath) You bastard.

Daisy:              Tom, darling, please –

Tom:               Just one second, Daisy. I want to ask Mr Gatsby one more question.

Gatsby: Oh please, please go on, Mr Buchanan, go on.

Tom:   What kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house anyhow?

Daisy:  He isn’t causing a row, you’re causing a row!

Tom:   Yes, he is! And I have evidence – irrefutable evidence that this man is a liar, and a cad!

Daisy:  What on earth do you mean?

Tom:   He’s a bootlegger, a swindler, a goddamn, no good nuisance to society!

Daisy:  A bootlegger – a – a – swindler?

Tom:   And that’s not all, oh no – there’s something much, much worse.

Gatsby: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr Buchanan.

Tom:   You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s one of the most terrible, most dastardly, most evil things a human being could do on God’s good earth!

Daisy:  What is it, Tom?

Tom:   Daisy – this man – (pause) – missold you PPI!

(Pause)

Jordan: What?

Gatsby:           I – I –

Tom:   Daisy, this man missold you PPI and I’m not having it.

Daisy:  Tom, please, have a little self-control!

Tom:   Self-control? I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr Nobody from Nowhere mis-sell PPI to your wife!

Daisy:  But – Jay, you told me the PPI was secure? You promised!

Gatsby: Daisy, listen, I-

Tom:   That’s it, Gatsby! The game’s up!

Jordan: What even is PPI?

Tom:   You’re a no-good PPI mis-selling fraudster, and there’s nowhere you can run!

Gatsby:           But, Mr Buchanan, you misunderstand me –

Daisy:              Jay, is it true?

Gatsby:           Of course it’s not true, sweetheart, I followed the letter of the law exactly –

Tom:               You did not!

Gatsby:           My PPI is authentic, I promise!

Jordan:           I don’t know what PPI is?

Daisy:              But how do I know if I’ve been missold PPI?

Tom:               When you took out the loan for that star-spangled party Cadillac,                    was it made clear that the insurance was optional?

Daisy:              No.

Tom:   Did the adviser tell you about any significant exclusions under the policy – for example, the exclusion that says you won’t be covered for any pre-existing medical condition?

Daisy:              No.

Tom:   If you had to pay for the PPI as a single payment, did the adviser make it clear that you would have to pay for the insurance up front in one single payment?

Daisy:              No!

Tom:               Then you’ve been missold PPI!

Daisy:              Oh my God!

Gatsby:           Daisy, no, it’s not true!

Tom:               I got you now, Gatsby!

Jordan:           What is PPI!?

Daisy:              This is the worst thing that’s ever happened!

Gatsby:           It’s not true, I tell you, it’s not true!

Daisy:              How could you!?

Gatsby:           Oh God, the American Dream is so empty and pointless!

Tom:               You should have stayed where you belonged, Mr Gatsby! The great American empire of PPI is too great a mountain for you to climb.

Gatsby:           I just wanted to realise my dreams!

Daisy:              On what, a pile of PPI mis-selling lies!?

Gatsby:           Curse this mortal coil, this fresh, green breast of the new world that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes, this last place in history man was face to face with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder – genuine PPI!

Daisy:              All my faith in insurance has been shaken!Tom:               And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into bad PPI!

Jordan:           What is happening!?

(Then, from offstage –)

Nick:                Freeze!

(They freeze. Enter Nick.)

Nick:                Have you been missold PPI? Has the American Dream crumbled before your eyes like Tesco value biscuits? Has the reinvention of yourself for the purposes of Romanticist realisation of dreams got you in a bit of a mess?

Then you need – Green Light Insurance Protection!

(TV audience cheers).

Thousands of families across the US have been hurt by the realisation they have been sold bad insurance.

(TV audience boos).

I’m Nick Carraway, and I’m here to tell you how to reclaim missold PPI.

(TV Audience cheers).

We helped Daisy Buchanan reclaim… money, and she said-

Daisy:              I was delighted to earn all that money back, especially since I play the role of the passive feminine object, lacking in characteristic agency or autonomy and enacted largely as a bypassing tool for masculine self-actualisation!

Tom:   What Daisy means to say is, we were delighted.

Daisy:  Tom, please, I’m trying to expose the subaltern struggles of the feminine underclass in the emancipatory search for identity-

Tom:   Hush now, sweet cheeks, otherwise you’ll wear yourself out before tonight.

(TV audience woos and wolf-whistles).

Nick:    In recent years, our great nation of America has been going down the plughole. The total, singular cause for this is people like Jay Gatsby, people who are born into poor, working class families and have the goddamn nerve to believe they can do better.

Gatsby:           But it’s the American Dream?

Nick:                Sorry, what’s that Gatsby? I can’t hear you over the sound of my reclaimed money!

(Produces a wad of notes. Everyone but Gatsby laughs).

People like Jay Gatsby mis-sell PPI to honest, hard-working Americans, and wear pink suits. It’s a real mess, folks, it really is.

So, Nick T. Carraway is calling for a total and complete shutdown of all PPI-selling nobodies from nowhere, until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(TV audience and all onstage cheer wildly).

Jordan:           How quaint.

Tom:               It’s about time someone put their foot down.

Daisy:  (To Nick) You resemble the advertisement of the man – you know the advertisement of the man?

Nick:    (Laughs) I sure do.

(TV audience laughs).

Now, as it happens, PPI is not the only thing that Green Light Insurance Protection will reclaim for you. In the past 2 and 3/4 months, GLIP has helped people reclaim everything from the bones of lost puppies to the empty silence of a loveless marriage fluttering away down the M32. Just to give you one example, we helped Jordan Baker reclaim her sense of bored contemptuousness, and she said –

Jordan:           Christ, this is awful.

(She exits).

Nick:                – And you can see how well that worked out. Just to give you a second example, we helped Tom Buchanan reclaim his sense of fun, and he said-

Tom:               It was amazing – I thought I’d lost my sense of fun in adolescence!

Daisy:              Oh, Tom, I’m so happy!

Tom:               Come on honeybunch, let’s go volunteer at the homeless shelter and then frolic in a meadow of flowers for a while.

(They skip offstage).

Nick:                And we even helped Jay Gatsby reclaim his reclaimed money from his missold PPI. He said-

Gatsby:           I was delighted to earn all that money back, especially since I’d already had it reclaimed from me! Maybe now I can buy Daisy’s love back! Daisy!

(Exits).

Nick:                And the inversion of logic doesn’t end there! Green Light Insurance Protection can help you reclaim anything you can imagine: sports cars, tennis racquets, children, abstract nouns, sexual encounters, libido, a sense of purpose in the meaningless and futile void that we call existence, hair– you name it, we can reclaim it!

(To the audience-)

Has anyone here got anything that needs reclaiming? Anyone?

(To an audience member)

You sir/madam, you look like you need something reclaiming. Your dress sense perhaps? (Ad lib…)

(Enter English Student (Benjie dressed as a girl), clutching a copy of The Great Gatsby.)

Student:         Oh my God, what are you doing?

Nick:                What? Who are you?

Student:         I’m an offended English Literature undergraduate, and I’ve come to complain about this, like, awful production! The Great Gatsby is, like, my favourite novel ever, and you are being totally not faithful to the original text!

(Re-enter Tom, out of character)

Eliot:               Everything alright out here, Cameron?

Cameron:       It’s fine, Eliot, we’ve just got a complaint.

Eliot:               Oh, bloody hell – (to offstage) – guys, anyone who can be bothered, we’ve got a complainant onstage!

(Re-enter the cast, out of character).

Student:         Oh my God, like, you didn’t have to get the whole cast out here, like, seriously, I’m just making a little complaint.

Nico:                I’ve actually had it up to here with these bloody oversensitive girls complaining about the way we present classic novels –

Student:         OH – MY – GOD, like, how dare you stereotype me by my gender, gender is a social construct and, like, if anyone employs reductive language on me again I think, I might, have, to SCREAM!

Cara:               Well, what’s your complaint?

Student:         Like, you turned the greatest novel of all time into an infomercial, like, that’s so not on, like I have the copy I used for my English A-level here and, like, all the notes I have got me an A-star, so, like, I think I know that you were totally not faithful to the writer’s intentions!

Tiggy:              Benjie, what the hell are you doing?

Student:         Benjie? Who’s Benjie? I’m an offended English Literature undergrad-

Tiggy:              Benjie, seriously, we all know it’s you.

Student:         I don’t know what you’re talking about-

Cara:               Wait a minute – have you written yourself into your own play?

Benjie:            No, Cara, I was trying to make the audience aware of the issue of representing the writer’s intentions, without being recognised. Hence why I’m in disguise.

Cameron:       Isn’t it a bit ironic that you’re attacking us for not being faithful to F. Scott Fitzgerald, when you actually wrote this piece?

Benjie:            Oh yeah, that’s right, lay into the writer for pointing out the inconsistencies in his own writing. I’m just trying to get ahead of the critics, Cameron.

Eliot:               I can’t believe you wrote an entire script just to draw attention to yourself as a writer.

Tiggy:              Honestly, guys, I know him and this is exactly the kind of dickhead thing he’d do.

Benjie:            Tiggy!

Tiggy:              He produced LitLive last year and he obviously wanted it to be all about himself again.

Benjie:            That is so unfair.

Nico:                I can’t believe I even took part in this play.

Cara:               A whole script, just to big up your own ego. You’re disgusting.

Eliot:               Let’s go!

(All but Benjie and Cameron make to leave -)

Tiggy:              You know he emailed Ben Bridson just to ask if he could appear as himself in Gloucester Road?

(Exit.)

Benjie:            Well, I guess that just leaves you and me, eh Cameron?

Pause.

Cameron:       Have you been missold PPI?

Benjie:            Oh my God, yes!

End.

The Tales Of Howard The Dog Pt. 2

The Mystery of the Missing Mutt

Hello, good evening, how d’you do? How delightful to see so many of you here! Now, my name is Marcus D’Invilliers-Strawley. I believe I’ve spoken to some of you before – you might know me as the owner of one Jack Russell Terrier, who goes by the name of Howard.

Now Howard, as some of you might know, is no ordinary mumbling mutt. He is a hound of the finest vintage; he was purchased from Harrods Pup Parlour at an extravagant rate fit for a dog, and came gift-wrapped with a bottle of Cognac dating back to 1654 – incidentally the year the first dogs emigrated to what is now known as the Doberman Republic.

It wasn’t long after I first adopted Howard into my humble abode of Strawley Manor, that I began to realise there was something a bit odd about him. For a start, he was wearing such fine smoking jackets, in which to smoke such fine tobacco, with which he consumed such fine beverages. It was only after he requested the key to the North-by-North-West Wing of the manor, where he could access the Classic-Picasso-Paintings-and-Dancing-Girls Parlour, that I realised I was dealing with a hound of the most exquisite taste.

Since Howard’s arrival at Strawley Manor, we’ve made quite the couple. Every day we’d have a breakfast of caviar with wine shipped straight from the region of Bordog; and after that, we’d have lunch, with a bone and wine shipped straight from the region of Cote D’og. Then in the afternoons we’d stroll about the manor, playing fetch and reciting the verse of his favourite poet, William Dogsworth.

In fact, it was on just such an afternoon that something rather strange happened.

Howard was just coming to the end of a particularly eloquent rendition of ‘Ode to a St Bernard’, and it was almost Pimms O’Clock. He was smoking his 200-year-old cedar-wood pipe, as he is liable to do on Thursdays. ‘Good for the elocution, you understand,’ he’d always say.

We were just reaching the South-by-South-Eastern region of the Estate, when all of a sudden the butler came flying over to us in his paraglider.

‘Sir!’ sighed the Butler. ‘A most terrible thing has happened! The painting in the Extravagant-Wines-Parlour has disappeared!’

‘Why!’ I cried. ‘I knew I should never have used that Harrods Own Brand wall paint!

‘No sir,’ he yawned once again. ‘I mean the portrait!’

‘By Dog,’ blasphemed Howard, suddenly distracted from the round of golf he had started playing. ‘You don’t mean to say that the portrait of my ancestor has been – embeagled?’

He was, of course, referring to the Renaissance-era portrait of his great-great-great Grand-dog, Lord St. Beagle Terrier of Balmoral, painted by Dieogo Velazmutt in 1643 – incidentally the year that the first dogs invented the leash.

‘You don’t mean,’ I said, turning to the Butler, ‘that the portrait has been stolen?’

‘Unfortunately so, sir! It is a most terrible thing to learn that such a prized possession as a family portrait, handed down from generation to generation over centuries, has been stolen or misplaced. Oh! ‘Tis no greater weight upon the heart than that of an anvil, come flying down from the intenser depths of darkness in which only the most evil acts of the cosmos could occur. Oh, woe is me! I can but hope and pray for it’s safe return, though until that time my mind shall be racked with fear, my hands a-shiver with existential damnation, and my spirit nailed to the sticking place of this futile, mortal coil.’ Laughed the Butler.

With my heart in my mouth I caught the two o’clock golf caddy back to the manor, and immediately had the manor doctor place the runaway organ back in its correct anatomical position.

Then, with the speed of a hungry whippet who’s just seen a pork sausage on the horizon, we made our way through the manor: through the Prosecco-Parlour, the Cinema-Parlour, the Cabaret-and-a-Martini-Parlour, the Horseracing-Parlour, the Non-Horseracing Parlour, The-Devonshire-Landscapes-and-Minstrel-Dancing Parlour, the Parliament-Parlour, the non-Parliament Parlour, the Parlour-Parlour, the non-Parlour-Parlour-Parlour, the Pit of Eternal Damnation, and finally our destination, the Extravagant-Wines-Parlour.

And indeed, there lay before us a most revolting sight: a bottle of Chateau d’Esclans 1948, left open on the table from our St. Labrador’s Day dinner party of the year before.

‘What a damned waste,’ said Howard, giving the wine the kiss of life to see if it was still breathing.

Then we turned our attention to the empty spot on the wall where the portrait had been hanging hours before. The painting had featured Howard’s ancestor stood nobly atop a grizzly bear that he had recently conquered. Now there was nothing but an empty space.

‘It is a little bare, isn’t it?’ remarked Howard.

‘Well, actually it was rather a large bear,’ I said.

‘That’s not what I – yes, anyway,’ said Howard, puffing pensively on his pipe of the finest vintage. ‘Now, old boy, whatever are we to do about this conundrum? I’d rather have it sorted by tea-time – I have an appointment scheduled with my vet this evening, you understand.’

I was about to pour myself a gin and tonic to help ease the nerves, but no sooner had the words ‘alcoholic assistance’ left my mouth than a sound of the feline variety erupted from behind me.

‘Well, well, well,’ purred the voice. ‘Looks like you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

‘Well,’ said Howard, ‘if it isn’t Purrs Meow.’

And indeed it was none other than Purrs Meow, the mobster moggy, wearer of pinstripe suits and Howard’s sworn enemy.

‘And you thought you’d seen the last of me,’ cackled the criminal cat. ‘You ought to know that cats have more than one life, Howard old boy.’

‘What do you want, Purrs,’ growled the heated hound, sipping at his newly poured glass of whisky furiously. ‘Strawley Manor has no space for mischievous moggies such as yourself.’

‘Oh, I do not want much,’ purred the puss, lighting up a Cuban cigar of the finest vintage. ‘But if you want to see your painting again, then I suggest you give to me – the rights for the Strawley fresh water lake!’

‘The Strawley fresh water lake!’ I cried, mixing myself a single malt whisky. ‘Why, I could never give that to you! It contains salmon of the finest vintage!’

‘Exactly right!’ cried the cat. ‘The tastiest and most exquisite salmon a cat could lay its paws on! Why, with fish of such standard I could be a cat millionaire! A cationnaire!’

‘What a poor excuse for a neologism,’ remarked Howard, taking a seat and putting his Belgian brogues up on his paw-rest. ‘Here, Purrs old boy, why don’t you have a sip of this? It was milked fresh from the Strawley Manor cows just this very morning.’

All of a sudden Howard produced from his corduroy jacket none other than a saucer of milk of the finest vintage.

‘Milk!’ said the parsimonious puss. ‘From the Strawley Manor cows! Why, that is supposed to be the finest milk in the land!’

‘Indeed,’ said Howard. ‘And with just a hint of Sauvignon Blanc added to give it an extra – je ne sais quoi.

‘I mustn’t, but – I cannot resist,’ gasped the moochy moggy as he battled desperately with his inner demons. ‘Oh, go on then – just one sip.’

He marched across the room and took just one lap of the milk.

‘There, that is all – but, oh, it is so tasty!’

Suddenly Purrs snatched the whole saucer out of Howard’s paw, and before we knew it all the milk was gone.

‘Oh no, I have made a mistake,’ growled the cat in yet another strange inversion of dog/feline roles. ‘You have put cat-nip in this milk!’

‘Looks like you might just have run out of another of your nine lives,’ quipped Howard, insouciantly checking the dogs-e 100 index on his canine-issue iphone.

But Purrs seemed more determined than that.

‘Aha! For you see, since last we met I have learnt to tackle the effects of cat-nip! It does not affect me anywhere near as much as it used to.’

But, just as we thought Purrs might have got away with it, in came the Butler, wheeling with him a tray carrying none other than a Strawley fresh water salmon.

‘Your afternoon salmon, sir, as requested?’ groaned the Butler.

‘Quick!’ I said. ‘Throw it out the window!’

‘Don’t worry, this one won’t bite you like last time.’

‘Just do it!’

The Butler obediently did as requested, and threw the salmon through the conveniently open window. Purrs, in his cat-nipped state, couldn’t resist.

‘I must have that fish!’ he cried as he sailed for the window. ‘I have the munchies!’

And before we knew it, Purrs Meow had jumped through the window, and was taken care of once again.

‘Terrific show!’ said I, clinking glasses with Howard in celebration. ‘May that be the end of Purrs Meow!’

‘Huzzah! Let’s all celebrate with a bottle of cognac!’ complained the Butler. ‘I’ll let my wife know immediately!’

I knew this would be difficult for the Butler, as he hadn’t spoken to his wife in twenty years. After all, he didn’t like to interrupt her.

‘I wouldn’t be so sure of that, old boy,’ said Howard, casually beginning a game of monopoly and purchasing Fleet Street as he lit up his pipe. ‘Cats always land on their feet.’

‘I suppose you’re right,’ said I. ‘But what of your painting? Purrs still has it in his catty clutches.’

‘Please, old boy, you underestimate me,’ simpered the cunning canine. ‘The copy Purrs has is a fake. I keep all my genuine paintings in the Genuine Paintings Parlour.’

‘Terrific!’ I said. ‘Well, it just goes to show – it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.’

And with that, we all finished our bottles of brandy, and moved onto the Fine-Steaks-and-a-Cabaret Parlour to celebrate.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all we have time for tonight. I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about my life with Howard, and if there are any further adventures, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Tootle-pip!