Pros: A delightfully intimate venue with comfortable seating and excellent sightlines.
Cons: A weak script and incoherent plot don’t make things easy for the audience.
The pre-show literature looked promising; Lesere tells the story of an English couple, Jane and John Lesere, whose quiet post war life in France is interrupted by George, a stranger who seems to know everything about the past they are trying to forget. Exposing the falsehoods upon which they have built their lives, he shatters their fragile tranquillity, intent on some terrible revenge. Add the excellent Jermyn Street Theatre as the venue, and we have the ingredients for a superior presentation. However, the play never quite lived up to its Hitchcockian billing. To give the play such a label was perhaps over ambitious by the producers, as it sets it up for a fall. One would naturally expect a modicum of suspense; and whilst I certainly felt confused, suspense was definitely lacking. The play never properly explains George’s motivation; how does he know the Leseres; why does he know so much about them and why did John’s actions mean so much to George? I was also mystified by Jane’s actions – why let George, a complete stranger, and a sinister one at that, cross the threshold? Dressed in a lounge suit he apparently lives on the farm next door; would that not have rang the tiniest of bells with Jane? It is sometimes necessary to suspend one’s disbelief, as artistic licence will need to take a hand; but the story throws logic to one side without any real purpose. The play began as a mystery and ended in much the same fashion, but annoyingly offered no solution to the characters’ origins or association.
Cassandra Thomas and Leon Williams as the Leseres performed solidly throughout; but their exchanges were awkward as they drifted into Brief Encounter territory with ‘jolly-spiffing-what-what’ dialogue that will sound dated to modern ears. Although it does purport to be a period drama, I couldn’t help thinking that Harry Enfield made a career lampooning such characters; and this in itself does the play’s credibility no favours. Richard Atwill starred as the creepy George, and I sense he has a long film/TV career looming playing swivel-eyed maniacs. If the play’s intention was to create a Hitchcock style psychological thriller, it has fallen well short of the mark; the characters display too little depth and lack any real connection with each other. This play might be best described as a ‘whydunit’ but we never really get to find out why.
Author: Ashley G. Holloway
Director: Donnacadh O’Briain
Producers: Keep Calm and Carry on Productions & Hartshorn-Hook Productions
Booking until: 1 August 2015
Box office: 020 7287 2875
Booking link: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/jermynstreettheatre