Tag Archives: Jack Derges

The Jazz Age


The Playground Theatre

The Jazz Age

The Jazz Age

The Playground Theatre

Reviewed – 15th October 2019



“Jana Robbins and Anthony Biggs’ direction is jaw-droppingly masterful”


“The New Yorker called him a 44 year old unemployed screenwriter from a forgotten era. The Jazz Age, they called it.” So says Ernest Hemingway about his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald in Allan Knee’s new play, The Jazz Age. It’s a quote dripping with delicious irony, as neither Fitzgerald, The Jazz Age nor Knee’s tribute of the same name are in any way forgettable.

The play follows the lives of the two writers who arguably encapsulated The Jazz Age more than anyone else – Hemingway (Jack Derges) and Fitzgerald (Robert Boulter), as well as Scott’s wife Zelda Fitzgerald (Hannah Tointon). Set mostly in Paris during the Roaring Twenties, the story closely recounts the tale of the trio’s young lives, particularly focusing on the complex relationship between them. Beginning with Scott’s scouting of Hemingway and Scott and Zelda’s whirlwind romance, the narrative continues with Hemingway’s rise to fame, Scott’s downwards spiral into self-pity and alcoholism and Zelda’s ever loosening grip on her own sanity.

Scott credits Hemingway as “holding a mirror up to the world and writing what you see,” a metaphor which also applies here – the story is written with clarity and panache whilst the attention to detail is absolutely spot on. From the moment the audience enters they are transported into a twenties Parisian Jazz club, Darren Berry’s three piece band enticing them in with sultry, buttery-smooth tones whilst Gregor Donnelly’s grandiose design wows them. Cabaret tables peppering the front row are a particularly pleasing touch – what better way to immerse the viewer into the play’s world than to make them part of the set?

As one might expect, the music is part of what makes The Jazz Age such a joyously stimulating experience – like icing on a cupcake, you’d notice if it wasn’t there. Never superseding, it is woven into the fabric of the play and evolves with the scenes it introduces – sometimes upbeat and fun, sometimes gentle and beautifully wistful. Its utilisation for changes in setting allows the story to seamlessly flow whilst making sure that classy Cabaret atmosphere never slips.

The stars of the show, however, are the characters themselves. Jana Robbins and Anthony Biggs’ direction is jaw-droppingly masterful – this is as close as you’re going to get to seeing Scott, Zelda or Hemingway actually come back to life. Boulter’s Scott is initially cocksure and arrogantly naïve, particularly apparent in his brazen forwardness towards Zelda during their first encounter, however Boulter’s transformation into the hollow, quivering spectre Scott becomes later on is measured impeccably and heart-breaking to witness. Tointon beautifully embodies the flapper girl Zelda, moving playfully yet gracefully and truly bringing the rhythm of the music to life. It is never one note however – Zelda may at one point be oozing with seductive charm and then suddenly switch into a complete manic breakdown, making her mesmerising to watch.

Derges’ Hemingway is quite simply breathtaking. Seldom have I seen an actor master the dry wit in a play like Derges does here. Every savagely witty putdown is timed effortlessly and laced with a palpable weariness and nonchalance. Hemingway’s overt machoism is never shied away from either and his cool confidence contrasts spectacularly to Scott’s nervous energy. The friendship between the two writers is definitely the most believable part of The Jazz Age and is what makes the final moments so beautifully poignant.

What’s really great is that you don’t need to know anything about the actual lives of these characters to feel a deep affinity with them. You can simply sit back, let the music seduce you and enjoy being whisked away to The Jazz Age for one evening. I urge everyone to go and watch it – it’s sublime.


Reviewed by Sebastian Porter

Photography by Robert Workman


The Jazz Age

The Playground Theatre until 19th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fanatical – the Musical | ★★★ | November 2018
Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille Et Moi | ★★★½ | January 2019
My Brother’s Keeper | ★★★★ | February 2019


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Queers thespyinthestalls The Old VicQueers thespyinthestalls The Old Vic

The Old Vic today announces casting for Queers, a series of eight monologues curated by Mark Gatiss. Staged on 28 and 31 July at The Old Vic, they mark 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 began the decriminalisation process for homosexuality between men. Queers celebrates some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male history over the last century.

Mark Bonnar, Sara Crowe, Jack Derges, Ian Gelder, Kadiff Kirwan, Russell Tovey, Gemma Whelan and Fionn Whitehead will perform monologues written by Matthew Baldwin, Jon Bradfield, Jackie Clune, Michael Dennis, Brian Fillis, Mark Gatiss, Keith Jarrett and Gareth McLean. The monologues will be directed by Mark Gatiss and
by Old Vic Associate Director Max Webster and Baylis Director Joe Murphy.

Queers is produced in partnership with BBC Studios, Pacific Quay Productions. The monologues were filmed earlier in the year, directed by Mark Gatiss and featuring many of the cast who will be appearing on stage at The Old Vic. These films will be screened on BBC Four this summer.

Queers is part of The Old Vic’s One Voice series, funded by the TS Eliot Estate, which celebrates the rawest of theatre forms – a single voice on a stage without scenery and with nothing to rely on but words. 


The full line up is as follows:

Fri 28 Jul

The Man on the Platform by Mark Gatiss, performed by Jack Derges
The Perfect Gentleman by Jackie Clune, performed by Gemma Whelan
I Miss the War by Matthew Baldwin, performed by Ian Gelder
Something Borrowed by Gareth McLean, performed by Mark Bonnar

Mon 31 Jul

Missing Alice by Jon Bradfield, performed by Sara Crowe
Safest Spot in Town by Keith Jarrett, performed by Kadiff Kirwan
A Grand Day Out by Michael Dennis, performed by Fionn Whitehead
More Anger by Brian Fillis, performed by Russell Tovey


The Old Vic thespyinthestalls


Box Office 0844 871 7628 | oldvictheatre.com