Juniper and Jules
Reviewed – 23rd January 2019
“Taylor and Schmidt have great chemistry. Both wholly own their roles, playing two very different women”
Juniper (Stella Taylor) has never been attracted to men. Jules (Gabriella Schmidt) had no idea she could be attracted to women. That changed when she met Juniper. This one-hour play follows the progression of Juniper and Jules, from early infatuation into the rougher waters of a long-term relationship. It explores the question of whether it’s possible to be committed without being exclusive, and asks how much one should be willing to sacrifice for a partner (if anything).
Juniper & Jules is a series of snapshots of a modern lesbian couple: their dating, their sex, their arguments. Writer Stephanie Martin has created two compelling characters whom she guides with impressive authenticity. There’s a genuineness to their frustrations and their vulnerability that resonates. Martin orchestrates the flow and ebb of their closeness and distance with real skill, shaping a narrative that’s unflinching and bold, but also light and touching. Humour is a thread woven throughout. The jokes are clever and consistently land well.
Taylor and Schmidt have great chemistry. Both wholly own their roles, playing two very different women. There is accomplished subtlety in Taylor’s facial expressions. Schmidt bounces between hot and cold with ease. They command the intimate room, giving the audience no opportunity to let their attention drift.
Juniper and Jules’ attempt to navigate the pitfalls of a non-exclusive relationship is engrossing. However, an ending that is meant to be revelatory feels circular instead. With a bit too much sermonising, the characters rehash the same ideas, and make the same decisions they made before, simply hoping this time will be different. It’s somewhat anticlimactic, as it seems a lot of the problems of the story have been left unaddressed. But overall it’s an honest, engaging, and insightful portrayal of a young couple trying to make their own rules rather than submitting to prescribed standards.
The Pit room at The Vaults is a tight space. Benches for the audience take up most of the area, leaving just an impossibly small, narrow strip of floor within which the entire performance is contained. It’s remarkable how well director Bethany Pitts has made use of almost nothing. Despite the nearly complete lack of set, we are easily immersed in the characters’ world. Also noteworthy is the approach to Juniper and Jules’ texting – a common obstacle in modern plays. Taylor and Schmidt speak the texts, including punctuation, at a distance from each other. It’s effective and keeps the characters engaged (rather staring at phones while we see messages displayed on a screen).
There’s an exciting twenty-five percent of work from LGBTQ+ artists at VAULT Festival this year. If you’re interested in authentic queer narratives told truthfully, with frankness and humour, then Juniper & Jules should be on your list.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography courtesy Clamour Theatre
Juniper and Jules
Part of VAULT Festival 2019
King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 11th July 2017
“… questions where social ideas of ‘normal’ stem from”
So London’s balmy start to summer decided to burst into a massive downpour this evening (actually for most of the afternoon beforehand too), therefore I found myself bereft of canoe and risking driving to the venue through foot deep puddles and rivulets of water!
The Kings Head Theatre Pub in Islington is on the A1 so fairly accessible and local parking not bad after 6.30. The pub itself is a traditional affair, massive windows and polished wood. It isn’t a huge room but on a ‘quiet’ Tuesday it was buzzing and capably tended by two cheerful barmen. Clientele was mixed. Every age of punter and a lot of accents chattering happily. I tried to guess who around me was waiting for admittance to the theatre in the back of the pub …
The pub has a long theatrical history framed on it’s walls and whilst the theatre is small it runs a slick turnaround. A registered charity, the theatre relies solely on donations and ticket sales to survive – they get no share of bar takings and pay rent to the brewery to be on site. Yet they are proud of their Equity House Agreement that means everyone involved with each production is paid the going rate.
I was here to see the second production of the evening ‘Bridle’, written and performed by Stephanie Martin. Part of ‘Festival 47’, the King’s Head’s new writing showcase.
For the uninitiated the auditorium is a little cramped, and tonight was pretty well attended. Despite the wet weather, the evening was not any cooler so the ceiling fans are a welcome breeze in an intimate venue. We entered to see a bare stage, a single microphone, a woman in a horse mask reading a porn magazine.
I’d seen the blurb and thought I was in for an hour or so of thought provoking drama regarding women’s sexuality in contemporary Britain. Instead I was treated to a mix of stand up comedy and monologue which slowly unravelled into a very 21st century tale from the Clamour Theatre Company, with all the drama hitting home via what we learned about our complex and flawed sole character.
The play begins as ‘Evie’ is detained by people unknown for an act she wasn’t aware of was a crime; the charges remaining ambiguous. Her reminiscences and explanations, her disclosures about her private life, loves and relationships, are slowly laid bare and the audience begins to build a picture of her. Modern grey areas such as sexting and stalking are explored and encroaching political censorship as well as social parameters are acknowledged.
Evie is likeable, honest and funny in declaring her past, she reigns nothing in, making you wonder if she’s a victim or a manipulator. While veering between laughing at her and with her, the play poses some familiar issues regarding ‘attention seeking behaviour’, attitudes to women who are open about life/love/sex, the female virgin/whore dichotomy, and feminine vs. feminist stereotypes. Through Evie’s revelations the audience questions where social ideas of ‘normal’ stem from – it lays bare the judgements we are all constantly either making, or are open to, without declaring what the verdict ought to be.
Stephanie Martin was very good as Evie, relaxed in the role and able to adapt the script around a small amount of audience participation/interaction. She held everyone’s attention and kept the narrative flowing.
If the applause at the end is a gauge, no one was disappointed with the performance. There is no resolution, vindication or damnation of who Evie is, she is in many ways all of us rolled into one – and as a woman watching the show I realise much of what it highlights is, or has been, real life to far too many friends, relatives and colleagues. That said, with both feet firmly on the entertainment stage the loudest laughs came from the males in the audience, even if one or two looked a little uncomfortable at first, so don’t dismiss this play as solely for a female audience.
In fact go see for yourself what an UN-Bridled woman has to say.
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
is at King’s Head Theatre on 12th & 16th July
as part of