Tag Archives: Timothy Kelly

Jade City

Jade City

★★★

The Bunker

Jade City

Jade City

The Bunker

Reviewed – 5th September

★★★

 

“praise should be given for facing stories of masculine brutality head-on”

 

Two men circle each other in a boxing ring; they spar, they wrestle, they laugh and, in a sense at least, they fight. The ropes that encircle the ring also encircle their lives, and by the end of performance, it’s clear that those ropes can’t contain them both.

Jade City, cleverly-named for both the local takeaway (with its £3.20 special) and a reference to the proximity of the Emerald Isle, is a two-man show from playwright Alice Malseed. Malseed hails from Belfast, where the play is set, and the whole production resonates with a sense of place. It opens with Monty (Barry Calvert) and Sas (Brendan Quinn) rattling off memories of their hometown. The Goliath crane, the Cregagh, Ormeau Road; cultural and local references which would be bound to strike powerful chords with those who know the city (and, as a nice touch, the Bunker is selling Tayto crisps). This densely-worded production is captioned throughout and in these quickfire exchanges it is invaluable (although at times distractingly serves to highlight deviations from the text, with whole lines missed, that can’t all be deliberate).

As we follow visits to the local, to Monty’s ‘stinking flat’, to the new bar in town, it’s clear that our two characters are knitted into their landscape, but passing references to their past indicate a troubling story. This unfolds, graphically and somewhat predictably, throughout the production. Some of the narrative is delivered via escapist role-plays, as Monty and Sas act out remembered or imagined situations. This is a helpful device, but it feels a bit hard to square the idea of lads who joke about times they’ve lobbed rocks at police and started fights also readily immersing themselves in shared childlike fantasies (‘We’re bin men!’). Given the narrative dwells on the toxicity and dishonesty of masculine posturing, this particular leap feels like a real ask of the audience, although passionate and likeable performances from Calvert and Quinn help.

The Bunker is a simple space in which to represent Belfast’s streets, pubs and clubs but clever lighting (Timothy Kelly) works hard, with strips around the boxing ring starkly setting up the stage and a sickly orange hue invoking the tacky-floored pub. Sound design from Michael Mormecha is also effective.

So many great components, then, but director Katherine Nesbitt isn’t quite able to unite them into a totally winning whole. One challenge is certainly the lyrical but heavy script, which feels like it’d be better served by being read on the page than seen performed. Another is the pacing; billed as a one-hour show, my performance ran 15 minutes over this and this extra time cost us tautness.

Rarely has a production had such a connection to a place; Belfast runs through Jade City like a stick of rock. In this regard, the play excels, and praise should be given for facing stories of masculine brutality head-on.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Jade City

The Bunker until 21st September

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Sam, The Good Person | ★★★ | January 2019
Welcome To The UK | ★★ | January 2019
Boots | ★★★★ | February 2019
Box Clever | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Killymuck | ★★★★ | March 2019
My White Best Friend | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Funeral Flowers | ★★★½ | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Flies | ★★★ | June 2019
Have I Told You I’m Writing a Play About my Vagina? | ★★★★ | July 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

17

17
★★★★

VAULT Festival

17

17

The Vaults

Reviewed – 23rd January 2019

★★★★

 

“well worth seeing for its touching portrayal of Gen Z friendship and confirms Frankie Meredith as a writing talent to watch”

 


Frankie Meredith’s two-hander depicts best friends Yasmin and Casey navigating the dizzying transitions of Year 13: its whirlwind of illicit boozing, UCAS, sexual experimentation, open days, Snapchat and anxious parents. They are bright, ambitious girls (further maths loving Yasmin is applying to Imperial) sharing in the triumphs and crises of small town teenage existence. Their friendship provides solace from Yasmin’s overbearing Sikh household and Casey’s more ambiguous problems at home.

Meredith’s writing captures the texture of hyperactive teenspeak very well. She powerfully depicts the anxiety of lives saturated by social media, where every comment, view, like or unreturned message is a possible source of misery. One lovely scene has Yasmin constructing a forensic timeline of Casey’s recent romantic betrayal through apparently banal Instagram exchanges. Meredith skillfully suggests the struggle for current teens to forge their own identity amidst unprecedented expectations of social and academic success.

The show is technically ambitious, making canny and restrained use of projection to illustrate the girls’ online life. It benefits from Balisha Karra and Finley-Rose Townsend’s lucid direction and thoughtful use of the tricky traverse space in The Vaults’ Cavern. As the two girls, Annice Boparai and Emma James excel in evoking a late-pubescent combination of self-assurance and naivety. James also excels in her multi-rolling: her turn as Yasmin’s cocksure first-ever-boyfriend was especially well-drawn.

Though the characters are realised wonderfully, the show is less accomplished in its plotting and felt, at times, like a first draft. The second half drifts into familiar teen-drama territory, though this was redeemed towards the end by some moving insights and astute character development. The play also attempts to incorporate lyricism through the odd foray into rhyming couplets which don’t feel entirely organic against the rest of the dialogue.

Nevertheless, 17 is well worth seeing for its touching portrayal of Gen Z friendship and confirms Frankie Meredith as a writing talent to watch.

 

Reviewed by Joe Spence

 

Vault Festival 2019

17

Part of VAULT Festival 2019

 

 

 

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