Morale is High (Since We Gave Up Hope)

Fest / Polly Checkland Harding

At its heart, Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope) is a show about the possibility of effecting real change. In this hybrid piece of gig-theatre, one of the two performers, Ross McCaffrey, has been to the future – and has “some shit to tell you”. His counterpart, Jake Walton, has questions; understandably so. Through a series of guitar-led songs and vignettes, the piece explores a hereafter where Michael Gove has become Prime Minister (“it was hers, now it’s mine…”) and Danny Dyer has won the 2021 Mercury Prize. “I don’t buy it,” says Walton. “You do buy it,” McCaffrey replies.

Touching on the recent past with a Brexit rap and a concise, post-2017 election song—“Who the fuck is the DUP” (on repeat)—McCaffrey delivers many of the anecdotes in the show, with Walton’s mimed illustration of the satire offering some well-constructed comic relief. Walton, too, has stories of his own to tell, describing people coming together for a protest march – but he is interrupted by McCaffrey, whose verdict that “protests are fine but in essence they’re futile” appears to be borne out by foresight.

It’s here—and in its denouement—that the show makes its more edgy political point. Tired of McCaffrey’s egocentric storytelling, Walton stops the show, demanding to know what has happened to a catalogue of current issues, the listing of which only serves to highlight the mess we’re in. “Why are we doing this?” he asks. “How do we solve this?” McCaffrey’s answer is both the show’s title and raison d’être – a conclusion that is, ironically, a determined, hopeful one.