Sweet Misery of Life Show

Company Name: Welfare State International
National tour
Date: 1971

John Fox in Engineers of the Imagination:

‘It was basically a satirical critique, an allegory of Britain about a variety show that broke up and ended with a mock crucifixion and a talent competition. The main aim was to get as many boos as possible. I think the climax came for me when we did it somewhere in South London, and we got all the trendies coming out to see how well we performed, not listen to what we were saying. It became very much fringe people performing to fringe people. It wasn’t achieving anything at all. I think I shouted at people and swore at them. Actually we blew it because Oscar Lewinstein, from the Royal Court, was in to see if he wanted to commission us, and we just stopped performing. So the following week, in the same venue, we started the first of the Lancelot Quail stories. We already had that kind of show in the bag, but it seemed like overnight we jumped from one show to the other. It became a positive thing, it wasn’t aggressive, it was about making the audience feel in some way better. And since then, the work’s pursued a much more poetic pattern.’

‘The problem with satire is that when you make sour statements all the time you become tainted and cynical and that wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted to make positive statements. We felt that we could make an alternative society in which people were valued for their abilities. There was a lot of optimism and naivety around at the time.’ (Reproduced here courtesy of John Fox)

See also audio extract on Sweet Misery of Life taken from the Unfinished Histories interview with John Fox and Sue Gill, 2013

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