Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Strung along by Jonny and the Baptists

The Thankless Years & The Happiness Index, at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, on Thursday, January 25

Review by Jon Lewis

To celebrate 10 years of touring as a double act, Old Fire Station associate artists Jonny and the Baptists (duo Jonny Donahoe and Paddy Gervers) inaugurated a national tour with a double bill.

Jonny and the Baptists
Jonny and the Baptists

The first show, The Thankless Years, is a collection of greatest hits, beginning with their rousing challenge, Capitalism, where everyone who has bought a ticket is berated for their complicity in supporting commerce. Wearing dinner jackets uncomfortably, Jonny and Paddy are well into their flow when the unexpected intervenes and Paddy’s E string and peg breaks on his guitar.

The audience is treated to a unique set of ad-libs and improvisation until Paddy repairs his guitar. Quite a few jokes are directed at the @newburytoday reviewer.

Once a new string was found and attached, the retrospective moved on to a crowd-pleasing ‘verbatim’ piece based on a night in a Travelodge. Sleepy conversations between Jonny and Paddy are re-enacted, about how they interrupted someone in a neighbouring room who complained to the concierge about their incessant chatter.

Many in the audience were familiar with these songs.

The second half, The Happiness Index, is an Arts Council-funded revue about mental health.

Both Jonny and Paddy experience different mental health conditions although the focus is more on Paddy’s depression in this narrative. With Jonny in an orange onesie and Paddy in lilac, the duo incongruously passes satsumas into the audience so that they can share the segments.

Although the performance feels improvised, there is a structure based around the last five Conservative prime ministers. It is a comedy of sorts with much time spent having Jonny getting into characters’ voices, notably Mrs Thatcher and the ghost of Paddy’s Scottish mother who died when he was young.

However, the real mental health problems suggested by Paddy are anything but a laughing matter, especially in the scene set during Boris Johnson’s time in power, where all the pills that Paddy is given are listed alongside their side effects.

It’s an uncomfortable balancing act trying to entertain yet keep it real and purposeful.

Somehow they stay on their tightropes.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More