The Wellcome
Trust’s temporary exhibition space has been cleared to make way for Pressure Drop, a
promenade performance with music, commissioned as part of the Wellcome
Trust’s Identity project.

Moving from living room, to pub, to chapel over
the course of a day, this collaboration between playwright Mick Gordon and
leftwing singer-songwriter Billy Bragg marks something of a departure for an
institution famed for its scientific collection, exhibitions and talks.

With the General Election only days away, it’s surely no coincidence that
the white working class family at the heart of this small scale exploration
into who we are and what it means to be British bears the surname Clegg –
though the party that Michael Gould’s out of work Jack is being encouraged
to represent on the local council is the BNP.

It’s the day of his father
Ron’s funeral and emotions run high as they await the return of Jack’s
younger brother Jon, now a successful financial trader, who left for the
States 15 years ago and hasn’t been back since.
The genial, deceased Ron (a big fan of Toots and the Maytals’ Pressure Drop)
keeps on popping back in soldier’s regalia, to talk to the family he left
behind – wife Joan who’s showing increasing signs of forgetfulness, grandson
George who’s heading for trouble under the influence of best mate Barney –
before disappearing back into his coffin.

And at the other end of the scale,
David Kennedy’s powerful, motor-mouthed Tony (Jack’s old school friend and
strongest supporter as well as Barney’s dad) has no qualms about voicing his
racist views or about passing his prejudices on to his thug-in-the-making

On a central platform, Bragg, accompanied by his band, punctuates the action
with pleasingly relevant new songs and points the audience in the right
direction as the location changes.

Strong performances flesh out Gordon’s
script, but although it pinpoints important issues and hopes for a better
future, it can’t really provide viable solutions with its tidy, optimistic


» Wellcome Collection Euston Road NW1 2BE Euston tube
0844 412 4318
Until 12th May £20


Louise Kingsley