Lolly Jones: 'We are raging. So we might as well be saucy too'
- The List
- 24 July 2019
This article is from 2019
Satirist and comedian talks about what she's learned in her last two years performing as (a burlesque) Theresa May
Satirist Lolly Jones has spent the last couple of years embodying Theresa May in her (Lolly's, not our outgoing PM's!) cabaret act. Last year her 50 Shades of May, where she lip-synched political speeches, got a plethora of great reviews at the Fringe. Now, as we wave goodbye to Theresa, Lolly is preparing to take her new show to the Fringe where will be performing a plethora of characters under the show title I Believe in Merkels.
For the past two years, I have been performing a Theresa May burlesque act with a grey wig, suspenders and Strong and Stable nipple tassels. When she quit on 7 June, plunging the UK into further disarray and ruining my career, her speech was off-key. Presenting her faux socialist rhetoric, it was the first time she had shown us emotion. I had a gig the next night. It was perfect.
Performing as a cabaret act on a night of all female pro-wrestling, I strapped on my leopard print heels and entered the ring. I usually perform on comedy bills, festivals or in working men's clubs but this venue had never felt more apt: mid fight entertainment! The atmosphere had begun to shift. People could laugh at this clown character again. For a while there, I had felt the tension. Audiences would be baying for blood as I pulled EU bunting out of her big white, cotton knickers (that, or I just didn't go down so well in Basingstoke).
Satire should hold our government to account. I lip sync her speeches and set them to music as she dances and gurns. 'Theresa' then strips to 'Cold as Ice' by M.O.P or 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' from Dreamgirls.
After watching hours of footage, I've learned that she really believes in her moral compass. Where one might see an iron lady imposter, our now ex-Prime Minister inhabits the role she was born to play; the daughter of a priest – principled, patient and patriotic. A potent mix for burlesque! The magnetic strip has of course, become broken, spinning the dial into all kinds of chaos. In layman's terms; she's ballsed up and the country is on a collision course for disaster.
What works particularly well on stage is when her U-turns on gay rights, climate change and the 'hostile environment' are exposed. Placing old soundbites next to her recent, more considered offerings lays her hypocrisy bare.
Audiences have also loved the exaggeration of her facial expressions. You can always tell what she's thinking; ostracised at Brussels' buffets, making bad quips with world leaders or robot dancing to African drums –her pain is evident. And this should have endeared her to us, but it didn't. The only tears that she shed were for herself.
In my Edinburgh show Fifty Shades of May in 2018, I was slightly sympathetic to her plight. Journalists' questions on her shoes or life choices made her gender (rather than her policies), a point of interest. But a lot has happened in the last year; her failings in the aftermath of Grenfell and Windrush or her ineptitude at pushing the withdrawal bill through parliament (to name but a few).
I play a host of world leaders in my new show I Believe in Merkels: Nicola Sturgeon, Marine le Pen, Angela Merkel and of course, Theresa. At one point, I bring her back as a zombie to account for the choices that she has made as PM. Stockings will be flung, merkins will be back lit and nipple pasties will flash in the dark. It's an all too sparkling eulogy to a figurehead that has put ego and ambition ahead of national interest.
We are raging. So we might as well be saucy too.
Today, Theresa May will head down the Mall to officially resign in front of the Queen. She has been a gift horse of physical comedy and taken me across the country to Stand up for Labour audiences, festival-goers and wrestling enthusiasts but I am nearly done. If I play her a lot, my mouth twitches unwillingly at the edges and I walk with my shoulders slumped.
Unlike the country, I'm not quite ready to give her up. I've invested in a Boris wig and a cycle helmet but how can I make the ultimate clown funny? This time perhaps, the joke is on us.
Lolly Jones: I Believe in Merkels, Assembly Roxy, 2–25 Aug (not 14), 8pm, £9–£11 (£8–£10). Previews 31 Jul & 1 Aug, £6.