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Tom Wrigglesworth - Open Return Letter To Richard Branson (Tour - Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Here’s a joke for you: Why is a gig by Tom Wrigglesworth like a Virgin Train? They both  run late! Actually, that is unfair - the gig started promptly but the audience was late.

This creates a distraction as the show opened with a short set largely improvised from interaction with the audience. Regular theatregoers will sympathise with Wrigglesworth who wondered if it would be appropriate to nail the doors shut and end the interruptions.

The success of this type of improv is dependent upon material that the audience offers. Wrigglesworth’s story-telling skills work more effectively when linked to a formal structure in the second half. And what a story it is, too! When a Virgin train guard imposes a penalty charge on a passenger, who has boarded a train for which she does not have the right ticket, Wrigglesworth at first protests and then organises a whip-round amongst the other passengers to cover the cost of the fine.

To prove that no good deed goes unpunished, upon arrival at his destination Tom is arrested for begging. This is one of a number of factors that, if it weren’t based on a real incident, would make you say that the story contains elements too contrived to be true. The passenger upon whom the fine is imposed is the archetypal little old lady who pays the fine with money intended to buy presents for her grandchildren. One of the other travellers just happens to be a solicitor who helps Wrigglesworth sort out his problems with the police.

The more formal structure of the narrative does not prevent Tom from adding elements but, even though tangential, his digressions work because they are funny and also retain a link to the main theme and so keep the story progressing.

Wrigglesworth, although outraged by the injustice, never loses sight of the ridiculous nature (and the inherent humour) of the situation. He points out that his potential arrest is the reverse of the traditional cop chase – instead of fleeing the law he is being carried towards apprehension.

It is this combination of morale outcry and strong humour that makes the evening such a success. Even when appealing to the audience to support his campaign Tom points out some of the more extreme responses he has received including one who claimed that high train fares was the main reason for his emigration!

All I ask from public transport is to get from A to B as quickly and quietly as possible. No matter how much I might like to believe to the contrary I would, therefore, have cringed in embarrassment had I witnessed the commendable response of Wrigglesworth.

Which, I suppose, is the point: Tom Wrigglesworth was willing to act and not only managed to promote a change for the better but also came up with an idea for a one-man show based on the incident.

Readers can support Tom’s campaign to secure a fairer system of train fares by signing his on-line petition at //www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/lenas-law.html

- Dave Cunningham


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