Billy Bragg sings about English identity in play

Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:56pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Karen Foster

LONDON (Reuters) - Musician Billy Bragg wants the English to think about what it means to be English.

The 52-year-old singer and songwriter, who is as well known for his politics as his music, has collaborated on the play "Pressure Drop," which delves into the issues of personal identity and belonging.

Bragg has contributed five new songs and plays them with his band as part of the production, being performed at London's Wellcome Collection until May 12 as part of nine months of events at the gallery on the theme of identity.

The play, Bragg's first foray into the theater, is about three generations of the white, working-class Clegg family and their anxieties about how their town is becoming more racially and culturally diverse.

"Pressure Drop", described in the publicity material as part play, part gig, and part installation, takes place on three stages for the actors and one stage for Bragg and his band. The audience walk around, following the actors as they move between the stages, with Bragg at the center of the action as the troubadour chorus who links the scenes together with his songs.

As the Cleggs prepare to bury the family patriarch Ron, a reggae-loving decorated World War II veteran, family friend Tony hovers in the background, eager for Clegg son, Jack, to run in the town council elections.

Although no one mentions the name of the party Jack is thinking of standing for, references are clearly to a far-right, anti-immigration party.

And from there it is no stretch to imagine that the Cleggs are in Bragg's hometown of Barking, Essex, the east London suburb where Bragg has been vigorously campaigning to stop British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin from winning a parliamentary seat in the May 6 general election.   Continued...