Arts Reviews

Jack and Jill at New Theatre

Evocations of the nursery rhyme resound throughout this student-written offering from Bethany Layne; as in the noted song, Jack fell down (and broke his crown) and Jill comes tumbling after, bringing with them their household and reputation. The eponymous siblings of the piece are not quite as wholesome as their poetic counterparts because Jack and Jill find solace from their overbearing mother and stifling social scenery in each other’s arms.

It is not delineated to the audience why, or how such an attraction between brother and sister arose, but we are in no doubt that the culminations of such nocturnal activity cannot be sound. The darkly-lit set and opulent staging, with so much paraphernalia crammed into a small space, are reminiscent of Jack and Jill’s repressed Victorian upbringing, and raise tension within the set. To divide acts, silent images of the duo as children are projected above the mantelpiece, emphasising the inevitable descent into misery from innocence and simplicity. The play hinges upon resonance and contrast; many students will empathise with notions of having to conform to a certain lifestyle, whether set out by parents or peers, which are embodied in Jack and Jill, yet it is difficult to sympathise wholly with them because of the social stigma long associated with incest.

The audience is given an omniscient view, as the play shows the living room and Jack and Jill’s bedroom simultaneously, with one set of actors remaining stationery, usually to evoke space but also in order that the entire social scene can be commentated on, the chief observers being the parents of the errant pair. Anna Wheatley and Sam A. Morris shine in these roles, providing comic relief and subtle, moving performances, which relieve the frenzied nature of Jack and Jill’s well-portrayed yet wearing relationship.

CARLY TAYLOR

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