Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope)

Manchester dark comedy duo Powder Keg (Ross McCaffery and Jake Walton) scream out their political statements in Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope) but none which make an impact. What could have been a rousing, rebellious piece of political comedy ends up as an exposition of how aware the duo were of what’s going on in the world at present - almost like a list just in case we have not been listening – told through a few soft punk songs and short storytelling.

A lot of strong storytelling and ideas are in the foundations of this show

From the set up of two guitars, two amps, and a microphone, Jake begins to tell us of how Ross has been to the future, and that he will apparently tell the audience about what happens between now and the year 2020. Prime Minister Michael Gove rules a nation is held together by fear, and Danny Dyer’s debut album wins the Mercury Prize, and people are marching singing songs of freedom and hope on common ground with a common cause, with the celebrities clinging on desperately for exposure by ticking the mob-pleasing boxes. Sound about right? Ross and Jake start off with high energy and snappy pace, but this begins to slow down as the show goes on. There is obvious chemistry and playfulness between the two performers, which makes for some hilarious comedic moments.

The structure of the show is scrappy, with short stories wedged between performances of both heartfelt and jesting songs, Ross sings beautifully with the grind of power chords, though neither of the actors play guitar like a rock-God it is endearing to watch them try. One of the most memorable, and genuinely moving moments of the show was Ross’ story of the martyr Lindsey and her plight for work. Plunged into the world where a woman goes to Citizen’s Advice in desperation as she cannot live on 16 hours per week, and is told bitterly that she should be grateful for any kind of work, the audience are given an insight into a future that may have actually already become our present.

Overall, I felt there was a lot of mentions of current socio-political issues, listing lot of questions for the audience to ask themselves, but not actually talking about it. And after engaging with the audience for a solid 50 minutes, the actors ignore the audience for the last scene, diffusing any tension they had built. A lot of strong storytelling and ideas are in the foundations of this show, and Powder Keg clearly have a lot to say, but needs a polish first.

Reviews by Isabella Javor

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The Blurb

Powder Keg smash pop and politics in some space age, futuristic Hadron Collider to create an ongoing evaluation of our political climate. Through intertwining narratives, songs to scream along with and time travel, Morale is High will predict what could happen between now and the next general election in 2020, exploring the effects of popular culture, political policy and inane day-to-day actions on who we choose to vote for.