Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels, currently running at the city's Royal Court theatre, is the sort of local comedy that leaves me cold. Its premise, that rich people from the Wirral cross the river every day to do jobs which should be done by ordinary Liverpudlians whom they regard as inferior, is both crass & puerile. It also reverts to the Scouse stereotypes which would be greeted with hostility by its audience if trotted out in the national media.
That said, the show's producers have every right to pepper the play's dialogue with topical references. Such as MPs' expenses. Enter stage left, no, sorry, make that Right, the not-so honourable member for Wirral South, Ben Chapman.
Chapman has threatened the show's producers with legal action if they do not drop a reference to his Telegraph moment in May (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/07/20/hit-liverpool-comedy-brick-up-the-mersey-tunnels-rewritten-after-wirral-south-mp-ben-chapman-threatens-injunction-100252-24195803/ ):
"The MP objected to a joke about the parliamentary expenses scandal made by one of the characters comparing benefit cheats and MPs.
"He mentioned 'the MP for Wirral South'."
Chapman's thin skin over a single joke at his expense (sorry!) sits oddly with his bullish demeanour when exposed for his claiming £15,000 for a mortgage already paid off (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5340349/Ben-Chapman-overclaimed-15000-on-mortgage-MPs-expenses.html ; http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/18/ben-chapman-refuses-expenses-repay ; & http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/list-so-far.html ).
Kevin Fearon, the show's main producer, offers the Echo what begins as an ostensible olive branch statement, but irresistably concludes as a barbed bouquet: "Brick Up [the Mersey Tunnels] is packed with gags and this one-liner would have passed unnoticed if Mr Chapman hadn't taken this heavy-handed approach. We offered him tickets for the show to see the line in context but he's so far refused. If he'd insisted on paying for them, we'd have supplied a receipt."
Given Chapman's declaration that he wouldn't "repay a penny" of the £15,000 when questioned last May, the moral high ground would appear to be a very odd location for him.