The cast of Jingle Street provide a rollicking good eveningBen Nicholson with permission for Varsity

“It’s not an overly-contrived critique of corporate culture, is it? I hate art that’s an overly-contrived critique of corporate culture.” So says Green Party campaigner Jasmine in the showdown of Jingle Street, a new musical by Joe Venable and Georgia Rawlins. Funnily enough, that’s exactly what Jingle Street is: an overly-contrived piece of art, full to bursting with earworms that’ll be driving me mad for another week, plot-points that come out of nowhere, and a head-scratching subplot about writing erotic letters to whales. And it’s glorious.

“Bursting with earworms that’ll be driving me mad for another week”

Jingle Street is the madcap tale of advertising executive Colin (Tom Hayes), who wakes up to discover he can only speak in jingles. The only person he can have a normal conversation with seems to be Jasmine (Maddie Smith), who considers him “three turds in a trenchcoat with a face drawn on”. They’re sort of like Beatrice and Benedick, if Benedick was a marketing exec, and Beatrice was an even more blatant bisexual. Snappily-written numbers like Pinky Swear, which deals with an engagement inadvertently brought on by a childhood accord, and asks the immortal question: “how happy and how fingered should a person be?”, had the audience snorting into their reasonably-priced drinks (ADC Bar, I adore you). Parsley (Emily Huxter) and Colin’s Boss’ (Xander Pang) brought out the ridiculousness of Venable and Rawlins’ lyrics, rather undermining the lack of musical talent Parsley’s character was meant to demonstrate. Not to be outdone, Jasmine and Colin jabbed at each other all throughout Tree Hugger, demonstrating a comedic chemistry so crackling that it actually overshadowed their run-of-the-mill romantic chemistry.

Venable and Rawlins also provided the jingle I’ll be singing down Silver Street all term: “There was nothing wrong with Joseph Stalin/That couldn’t have been solved by a Carling”... unfortunately. That’s not to say that Jingle Street was entirely far-flung farce. It managed to capture the sense of genuine unease spawned by constant advertisement. After all, who hasn’t unconsciously sung “autoglass replace!” back at someone, then wondered when they became a walking, talking advertisement? Nor did Jingle Street hold back when it came to criticising the current political climate. There was a noise like the audience had been ever-so-slightly deflated when Colin unwillingly burst out with the jingle “drown them in the sea… immigrants!”, only for a policeman to recognise it as the new Conservative party manifesto, then whistle it as they went on their way. Let’s just say it was no coincidence that Venable introduced the performance by comparing it to another gilded, pompous ceremony, the like of which last happened in 1953. He was talking about the premiere of Guys and Dolls, obviously. Wink, wink.

"Jingle Street might be one of the snappiest-written, delightfully bizarre shows going to the Fringe”

Of course, there are some jingles which don’t quite get stuck in your head the way they should. Colin’s curse comes and goes when convenient to dialogue, dampening the reprieve that Jasmine is meant to provide. I felt like I was missing a trick with the jingle “smile like a chicken with Oral-B”... Since when do chickens have particularly noteworthy dental hygiene? The biggest clanger was the romance between Colin and Jasmine. It’s particularly apt that Jingle Street was billed as Groundhog Day-esque. The strangely paced romance rivalled Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in the complete absence of chemistry between Colin and Jasmine, unaided by the sudden, offstage break-up of Jasmine and her girlfriend, Parsley’s, relationship. That’s not to say Colin and Jasmine aren’t brilliant scene partners; I sat up every time they spat barbs at each other. But sweet nothings? Honestly, I was quicker to buy Parsley’s shock epistolary romance with the Boss’ whale-moisturising, pinkie-sworn intended. I couldn’t help but wonder if the audience’s delighted laughter when Colin and Jasmine kissed behind their scripts, was partly a laugh of relief.


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Jingle Street isn’t perfect. That’s part of its charm. When Venable talked the buzzing audience through the various names suggested for the show (“Jingle Use Plastic”, “Jinglepaloosa”, “If We Leave the EU, Will Britain Still Have Access to the Jingle Use Market?”), he made no secret of the fact that the show, currently in preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe, is a work in progress. But that only added to the charm of the performance. Upon the narrated stage direction “Colin walks over to a grand piano”, the actor pulled out a tiny, electronic keyboard. Even the show’s keyboard player got involved, shouting out: “I certainly hope Jingle Syndrome doesn’t extend to anyone outside the core cast!” Far from letting the format of the performance detract from the night, the cast and crew ensured it was all the more charming.

Jingle Street might be one of the snappiest-written, delightfully bizarre shows going to the Fringe. It’s also the reason I’ll be singing “it’s not a gambling problem if you win big with Betfred” until its run in Edinburgh is long-finished. I’m pretty sure Venable and Rawlins could have written Das Kapital. I’m not certain Karl Marx could have written “70% of cigarette smokers… Die of something unrelated.”