by Nick Gill.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 30 July 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 July.
Reflecting a past time, it doesn’t really bite.
There’s a pristine, two-dimensional living room set, looking ready to transfer to the West End. But Nick Gill soon makes clear how abnormal his play’s normality is. The Jones’ evening small-talk here resembles that of the Smiths in Eugene Ionesco’s Bald Prima Donna.
Yet Gill is more sinister and political, moving towards the territory of mid-century playwright Giles Cooper, whose sinister accumulations could keep pace with Harold Pinter’s more famous menace, often with more overt social criticism.
But that was half-a-century ago. Gill seems embedded in that period. The all-White Jones family’s racism smacks of a past generation, with Catherine Skinner’s bright-smiling Jane unable to understand the accent of “eighteen-year-old sexually active” daughter Jenny’s boyfriend Kwesi.
Like the drink in the glasses and food on the plates, the accent is non-existent, while Jotham Annan’s Kwesi is the most natural person around. And the only sexually reticent one, unlike the Jones, who casually speak what’s often thought but never politely expressed in polite suburbia.
Sex is the wild-card in this White world. It makes Jenny bring home Kwesi, and later it brings aspirant Black policeman Hassan to his knees. It also separates Louise Collins’ inanely smiling Jenny, caring only for the impression her body makes, from her student brother John, whom Jamie Baughan shows disengaged from the family around him as he keeps his nose evasively in a book.
Aided by a nifty design switch in Philip Lindley’s (deliberately) over-neat set, to which the script refers too often, the action switches to somewhere presumably third-world. The point’s clear: that England abroad recreates England, abroad. But the attitudes are out-of-date. Someone in paterfamilias James’ trade would be used to meeting people from around the world – Gill hasn’t been keeping up with his Joneses.
Yet David Verrey’s molten-treacle voice creates a landscape of expressions, while Louise Collins’ Jenny is never more eloquent than when bloodstained and traumatised, before her earlier precocity sours to auto-pilot sexual activity.
That’s interesting; but the play still takes 100 minutes over something that could have been said in a fraction of the time.
Kwesi Abalo/Hassan Corduroy: Jotham Annan.
John Jones: Jamie Baughan.
Jenny Jones/Jean Smith: Louise Collins.
Jane Jones: Catherine Skinner.
James Jones: David Verrey.
Director: Kate Wasserberg.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Tom White.
Sound: Edward Lewis.
Costume: Ruth Hall.
Assistant director: Oscar Toeman.