My thanks to Tim Hunter, who has sent me both the concept album of The Progressive Campaign and a preview recording of the show, which opens at the Edinburgh Fringe next month.
Where: Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
When: 21-25 Aug, various times
The Progressive Campaign is an ambitious and entertaining musical on William Wilberforce and his struggle to abolish slavery, Hunter’s script and songs have a Northern grit and fire, which really resonates with contemporary campaigns for human rights.
Utilising images on a screen behind the performer, this is an intimate yet educational show with a modern folk sensibility. As an album, The Progressive Campaign is catchy and displays a musical energy that matches its inspiring lead character.
As a biographical piece of storytelling, this show does place you in the context of the time of politics, religion, and industrial wealth. It is a clever twist on traditional storytelling and has the potential to grow into a full ptoduction in due course.
I knew a little about the campaign to abolish slavery, but this filled in the gaps. Other singers portray the characters supporting Wilberforce, with their numbers and speeches filmed against digital backdrops and enhanced with props and relevant images.
The Progressive Campaign is an interesting take on a complex and important topic which made me want to find out more while enjoying the album and show’s potential as a musical.
This is a story of a fight against commercial interests and for the dignity of people toiling in subhuman conditions for profit. It is a topic that needed a strong and authoritative voice to force change: Wilberforce was that man.
With the caveat that there is no audience on this recording and it is a “rough cut” of the show, I liked it a lot and can see its worth as a full show. It is both historical talk and song cycle, and succeeds somewhat as both.
You can purchase the concept album here.