Swans and Socialism; The Making of Eat the Poor

For us, each show tends to come out of whatever we’re talking about at the time. Eat The Poor began in 2016, against a background of news about inequality, food banks, homelessness and benefit cuts. We wanted to know more, to think about how the country had got here and what we could do about it. We also knew it had to be funny – but you figure you’ll find the comedy along the way.

The breakthrough came during a week-long residency at The Bike Shed Theatre. By then we’d already travelled the country visiting homeless charities, councillors, academics, and even the Ludlow Conservative Society (that doesn’t come up much – there really isn’t anything interesting to say about them – but, you know, balance). We had a lot of material, but no idea how to start the show.

Where we were staying in Exeter, to get to the venue you had to walk along the river. We were performing every night and staying for drinks at The Bike Shed Theatre’s dangerously tempting bar, then getting up, finding the nearest cup of coffee (usually at The Coffee Cellar) and stumbling back next morning. For the bleary-eyed wanderer, The Quay is basically a terrifying gauntlet patrolled by the most malicious animals known to man – urban swans.

The squawking, the feathers, the vicious beaks that can break your arm off – there’s even an actual breed of Swans called Trumpeters. If you’re looking for a way to communicate the full terror of rising inequality that threatens to collapse everything we care about in our society, and the desire for bloody socialist revolution – well, look no further.

The show’s opening number was born with a nightmare vision of revolutionary swans taking over a world too socially divided to resist them. From there, it basically writes itself…

A year on, the show’s had a brilliant reception and we’re touring the UK for three months in spring 2017. In the meantime, we’ve a few rewrites to do. The Swans will stay – of course – but we like to keep things up to date and that’s especially tricky at the moment. (If you’ve also tried writing a topical comedy show in the last twelve months, you’ll know the year has taken away as much as it’s given.)

The worst thing about preparing to tour Eat The Poor is that, sadly, the subject matter is just as relevant as it was over a year ago. The best thing is getting to come and open the run for a full week at  The Bike Shed Theatre, back where it all started – though this time we’ll be finding an alternative route to the venue that’s entirely swan-free. We can’t handle the flashbacks.