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Orange Tree Theatre, London

Almost anything you want to say about this play is both true and not quite true, or, at least, not true in the ways you first think it is.

We see the two characters, Jess and Joe, aged nine and three-quarters, eleven, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen, although the action of the play is only broadly chronological. They are on the edge of a small river outside a small village in Norfolk where they are at school.

The action we see is a miscellany of moments, not necessarily in chronological order, which will one day be part of that half-remembered collection of relationships and emotions, the affects of which will remain with them throughout their lives.

It consists principally of dialogue, which implies rather than states whatever is going on in them as they grow up, affected by their developing consciousness of social and sexual factors, which variously embarrass and attract them.

There is nothing much that looks like a plot, rather a series of incidents and conversations which show them and us how they are growing up, learning to deal with embarrassing emotional factors and cope with sexual and other mysterious feelings.

Nicola Coughlan and Rhys Isaac-Jones cope marvelously with the allusive, indirect nature of what they are saying, especially when, as is the case most of the time, they are feeling their way in the mysterious and embarrassing mix of friendship, occasional flashes of sexual attraction and the fairly frequent moments of impatience (all seemingly inexplicable to them) which they experience in their dealings with each other.

Every now and thenn their puzzlement erupts into violent disagreement, even though they would be hard put to explain exactly what is the cause of their strong emotions.

This is a wonderfully engaging opening to the Orange Tree’s season. Will later plays be as good, or even better?

It’s hard to imagine, but we shall see.

  • Drama
  • By Zoe Cooper
  • Directed by Derek Bond
  • Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Until 8th October 2016, followed by a national tour
  • Review by Tom Aitken
  • 12 September 2016

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Tom Aitken is a freelance historian and theatre, film and literary critic. He was theatre critic of The Tablet in the early nineteen-nineties and has also published theatre reviews in The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian. In an earlier life as a teacher he staged productions ranging from Shakespeare to Oh, What a Lovely War! And his own adaptation of Moby Dick.

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