Tag Archives: Finborough Theatre



Finborough Theatre

JAB at the Finborough Theatre


“a lot is packed into this emotionally raw production”

There are two trains of thought about the pandemic. One that it is still too raw to explore in dramatic form; the other that it is old hat, and nobody wants to hear any more about it. But remember it, we all do. James McDermott has distilled those memories into a unique two-hander that follows the breakdown of a relationship, and of society, in tandem. The personal and the panoramic are mirrored effortlessly and it is impossible to remain unaffected by McDermott’s writing.

Anne (Kacey Ainsworth) and Don (Liam Tobin) are approaching their twenty-ninth anniversary, having long reached the comfort zone of the ‘can’t-live-with-you-can’t-live-without-you’ phase. Affection and irritation go blithely hand in hand; one minute dancing uninhibitedly to the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’, spilling wine and laughter in equal measure; the next bickering with jabs that often pierce uncomfortably deep.

From the order to ‘stay at home’, we follow the pair through the next twelve months. The pandemic itself is initially a backdrop to the minutiae of a marriage, but inevitably it draws in like a rising tide cutting off any escape route. Director Scott Le Crass keeps the actors within this frame of claustrophobia. Like caged animals they pace, sit, stand. Repetitive and functionless. Don at first feels safe. His vintage shop business wasn’t going so well anyway. Anne is twitchier, forced to work from home instead of being on the NHS frontline. She is tired of being the breadwinner, tired of her hot flushes and tired of “non-essential” Don.

“a compelling black comedy”

Although we know that’s not entirely true. Ainsworth is a master performer, eking out the nuances of her layered character. Each word, gesture and expression ring true. Tobin has a similar grasp of realism. They both make the stark shifts of mood believable. We recognise this couple. We are drawn into their individuality, but it is their inter-dependence that has us in an emotional stranglehold right through to – and especially during – the final scenes.

There are many scenes that take us there. Some short, some long, some dark, some light, some wordy, some silent. Jodie Underwood’s lighting slices between them while Adam Langston’s staccato, filmic music stabs at the transitions with Hitchcockian chill. The lights gradually dim in line with the subject matter as the action unfolds, and the comedy ebbs and makes way for the darker hues.

There is an extraordinary attention to detail. Anne’s password, we learn, is ‘cagedbird’. The transition from drinking from a glass to drinking straight from the bottle. Don tearing up his invitation to be vaccinated. The bursts of the optimistic, upbeat Eurythmic music fade into the scenes on certain lyrics: ‘some of them want to abuse you…’, or ‘when depression starts to win…’. These subtleties add poignancy and potency to Ainsworth’s and Tobin’s already powerful performance.

In a little over an hour, a lot is packed into this emotionally raw production. The words crackle with meaning, but so do the silences. “Jab” is a compelling black comedy. I definitely urge you to catch it (words I probably wouldn’t have chosen during the pandemic).


JAB at the Finborough Theatre

Reviewed on 23rd February 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Steve Gregson



Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE WIND AND THE RAIN | ★★★ | July 2023
SALT-WATER MOON | ★★★★ | January 2023
PENNYROYAL | ★★★★ | July 2022
THE STRAW CHAIR | ★★★ | April 2022
THE SUGAR HOUSE | ★★★★ | November 2021



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The Wind and the Rain


Finborough Theatre

THE WIND AND THE RAIN at the Finborough Theatre


“while Hodge’s plot is a little thin, his dialogue is plenty fun, giving rise to some excellent performances.”


I love a quiet story, where nothing much appears to happen, while tension and longing roil beneath the surface. The Wind and the Rain is so almost that, but unfortunately tensions are a little too tepid and nothing ever really comes to bear.

A group of 1930s medical students move into their lodgings for the new academic year. Tritton (Joe Pitts), a newcomer and awfully serious about his studies, finds himself falling for young Kiwi sculptor, Anne (Naomi Preston-Low), despite being as good as betrothed back in London.

And that’s pretty much the whole story. There’s no slow development between the love birds, barring their first meeting, so the meat of the plot happens right at the beginning. We do eventually meet Tritton’s betrothed, Jill, but despite this being a highlight, she’s such an obviously poor match, and Tritton disapproves of her behaviour so entirely, that it’s completely implausible they’ll end up together.

Director Geoffrey Beevers seems desperate to find some juicy subtext, and some of the lines are delivered so bizarrely in the opening act, I wonder if this isn’t going to become a thriller. The looks between the two long-term tenants when their new lodger arrives suggests something very foreboding indeed, and John Williams (Harvey Cole) who is generally the relief, mutters with fear, “I’m sweating”. On discussing her sympathy for newcomers learning the ropes, Mrs McFie, the po-faced landlady, ominously remarks, “There’s an awful lot you’d be better off not knowing.”

The theatre’s website mentions that this story is likely inspired by writer Merton Hodge’s own experiences “as a bisexual man in the 1930s”, which might explain Beever’s attempted angle, but there doesn’t appear to be any hint of Hodge’s bisexuality in the text itself, so instead we have these strange moments of forced tension that don’t make any sense with the actual dialogue.

That being said, while Hodge’s plot is a little thin, his dialogue is plenty fun, giving rise to some excellent performances.

Jenny Lee’s Mrs McFie is wonderfully odd, desperate to be in company, but deaf to social cues, and I feel rather sorry for her when her tenants so often interrupt her ramblings and send her off to fetch coal or dinner.

As I mentioned, the appearance of Jill, played by Helen Reuben, is a treat, bringing a taste of London glitz to the drab student lodgings. She’s presumably supposed to seem frivolous beside Tritton’s new love, earnest Anne, but Reuben makes her the fizz in the champagne, and everyone else appears dull and repressed in her presence.

Her escort, Roger, played by Lynton Appleton, is another highlight, playing a perfectly pretentious idiot and offering some much-needed silliness. Appleton later appears as a very green, awkward new student in the final scene, and while the plot’s pace has, by this point, nearly entirely dropped off, Appleton is quietly acting his socks off in the corner, despite having very few lines.

Carla Evans has designed a straight-forward, but wonderfully detailed set, complete with a buck’s head above a tiled fireplace, a kitchen crockery display cabinet and a beautiful old record player. The passing of time is denoted by the ritualistic changing of tablecloths, which seems a bit unnecessary and adds long minutes to an already long play.

There is definitely something to this story, but Beever hasn’t quite hit the nail on the head in the execution. Or perhaps, given it was written in the ‘30s, The Wind and the Rain might be more suited to a loose adaptation than a true-to-script production.



Reviewed on 13th July 2023

by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Salt-Water Moon | ★★★★ | January 2023
Pennyroyal | ★★★★ | July 2022
The Straw Chair | ★★★ | April 2022
The Sugar House | ★★★★ | November 2021


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