Linda Nolan and Louise Jameson are to star in a new production of Barbara Mackie’s audacious true story – Rumpy! Pumpy!, coming to London and Windsor this autumn.
This is a remarkable story of two genteel ladies from the Hampshire Women’s Institute who take it upon themselves to campaign for better conditions for sex workers.
Brothel madame, Holly Spencer, gets in touch when she hears about Jean Johnson and Shirley Landels, two brave ladies from the WI, who decide to campaign for the decriminalisation of prostitution to improve conditions for prostitutes.
She has the perfect brothel these ladies could be looking for! Holly quips: “You ladies make the tea and we’ll bring the crumpets!”
As the two conflicting worlds collide, comedy and chaos ensue in this very British comedy musical.
Travelling to Amsterdam and to the Bunny Farm Brothel in Nevada, Jean and Shirley are universally unimpressed by working conditions.
When they finally do find the ‘perfect brothel’ in New Zealand, stripped of pimps, crime or Madames, they decide to head home and set up their own mobile brothel on the streets of Winchester to change people’s hearts and minds.
Writer and composer Barbara Jane Mackie was inspired by the story of their heroic campaign, one which took them around the world and which Jean Johnson is still fighting for to this day.
She said: “I first met Jean and Shirley when I saw a Channel 4 documentary about them in 2008. I approached them and suggested the notion of a musical based on their campaign and they were delighted.
“I spent time with several brothel Madames in Manchester, Stockport and Southampton, meeting their working girls and hearing their stories.
“It struck me that all the girls were holding down two or three other jobs – supporting whole families, filling in for husbands and partners, often disabled, unemployed or redundant.
“I realised that the story of these girls would inter-twine powerfully with the story of the two WI ladies as all of these women wanted the same thing: the decriminalisation of prostitution and a safe place where women could work where drugs and crime would then fall away.
“This story is also about the choices one makes in life and the consequences one sometimes suffers as a result of choices made.
“Money and greed also figure in the play as themes, as does loneliness. The title Rumpy Pumpy came early – my way of wrapping up a complex subject and creating something fun, frothy, but with a gritty edge.
“I was inspired to take on this dark and difficult subject matter and make something digestible and entertaining. Always the best way to change hearts and minds”.
Barbara is currently creating her second musical, Cowboy Girls, which will open 2017 at an Off West End theatre. She is also writing the film, Roaring Girl, about the cancer campaigner Jayne Sullivan.
Rumpy! Pumpy!, directed by Simon Greiff with book, music and lyrics by Barbara Jane Mackie, will open at Windsor’s Theatre Royal, running from November 1-5 before moving to London’s Union Theatre from November 14-19.