Drayton Arms Theatre
Reviewed – 14th October 2018
“Perhaps we haven’t all dressed up an office chair in a shirt, but the sentiment that we can often find solace through fantasy is still there”
It can’t be often that the programme to a show reads ‘please note: in this production, the part of Jake Gyllenhaal will be played by an office chair’. This forewarning is emblematic of Verity Williams’ one-woman-show, Jake. Through a montage depicting some of the most iconic romantic scenes from the movies, Williams tackles the mammoth subject of loneliness.
Told through the framing of an annual meet-up for lonely people (Jake Gyllenhaal branch, of course), the show aptly depicts some of the more unusual sides of loneliness: the pleasure of watching a soppy rom-com, and the fun to be had from a fantastical celebrity crush. Perhaps we haven’t all dressed up an office chair in a shirt, but the sentiment that we can often find solace through fantasy is still there.
The strengths of the show lie in Williams’ ability to perform physical theatre with naturality: she is exceptionally watchable. It’s a rare thing for a first-time solo performer to hold your attention so voraciously. As the actor re-enacts scenes from a range of genres (from Brokeback Mountain to the Lion King), the slight mania that creeps in through Williams’ expressions starts to denote that something is not quite right. She peppers her show with moments of burlesque whilst dressed as the Rabbit From Donnie Darko. These instants become dark intrusions; they are funny at first, then progressively become eerie and frenzied.
The subtle, humorous way that Jake deals with loneliness is not, however, carried right through the show. The monologue that forms the last part, although insightful, undermines a lot of the well-crafted intricacies that were built up through the sketches. The show is asserted from the very beginning to be about loneliness, and the pseudo-reveal at the end of the show is a little pointless. The monologue explicitly lays out the performer’s proclivity for loneliness, how tricky it is to conquer and how it can be unrelenting. The careful research behind the show is evident, but it would be much more interesting to see it wholly integrated into the show’s sketches. There was a vulnerability to the dance, comedy, and clowning that created most of the show that communicated a lot of the things that are then bluntly put on the table in the final monologue.
The was an impressive debut performance. Williams’ gift for improvisation and comedy is a joy to watch.
Reviewed by Bryony Taylor
Drayton Arms Theatre
Previously at this venue: