In 2008 Jean Johnson decided to try and help decriminalise the sex industry in this country. She had been inspired in her crusade by seeing the plight of the sex workers in Ipswich and how some of them had been killed on the job.
The fact that she was middle aged and a member of the Women’s Institute meant she raised a few eyebrows but she stuck to her mission and spent the next few years campaigning alongside fellow Hampshire WI member Shirley Landels.
Sadly Jean died before her dream of legalising the sex industry and providing better conditions for its workers was made law. But her campaign continues and her story is continuing to be told to raise awareness of the issue.
Indeed her story came to the attention of Barbara Jane Mackie who has turned it into a musical. It is currently playing at the Union Theatre in Southwark and stars Louise Jameson as Jean and Linda Nolan as Madame Holly Spencer.
Rumpy Pumpy! is fun, sassy and upbeat from the off while cleverly conveying the serious message about the industry through the story.
We see Jean and Shirley travel the world as they search for a model of the best working conditions. Their quest takes them to Amsterdam, Nevada and eventually a worker-owned brothel in New Zealand.
Inspired by this latter visit they resolve to set up a pop up brothel in Winchester when they get back.
Meanwhile back in their native Hampshire, a local madam’s life is being made hell by a hypocritical policewoman hell bent on destroying her and her operation.
Some elements of this work really well and at just over two hours long it is punchy and doesn’t hang about. But despite one or two being real belters, some of the songs lack depth which is a shame.
However in Louise Jameson, Linda Nolan and Tricia Deighton as Shirley, the show is in safe hands. All three are terrific and are a delight to watch.
Rumpy Pumpy! is on at the Union Theatre, Union Street between Monday November 14 and Saturday, November 19. Tickets cost £20. Visit www.uniontheatre.biz or call the box office on 020 7261 9876 for full listings.