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Not John, John Gielgud Theatre (RADA Festival) – Review

Pros: Thought-provoking story, engaging script and excellent performance.

Cons: Occasionally, it was difficult to understand some of what was being said.

Pros: Thought-provoking story, engaging script and excellent performance. Cons: Occasionally, it was difficult to understand some of what was being said. The Gielgud theatre in Malet Street is RADA’s smallest performance area. It is, in effect, a dark box seating about 50, and was just starting to get a bit warm and stuffy at the end of the 40 minutes. The simple set consisted of a table and chairs littered with cans of Stella and other ‘stuff’ - just enough to suggest a classic pub, where sorrows are clearly being drowned by the play's one character Darryl Evans (Jake Cornford).…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A funny and sympathetic one-man show about how employment – or lack of it – can sometimes be linked to identity and how one man tries to cope with it.

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The Gielgud theatre in Malet Street is RADA’s smallest performance area. It is, in effect, a dark box seating about 50, and was just starting to get a bit warm and stuffy at the end of the 40 minutes. The simple set consisted of a table and chairs littered with cans of Stella and other ‘stuff’ – just enough to suggest a classic pub, where sorrows are clearly being drowned by the play’s one character Darryl Evans (Jake Cornford). So perfectly do the show’s creators (Cornford, and writer/director Rhys John Edwards) capture the right kind of jokes, conversation and behaviour of depressed pub regulars, though, that I’d be surprised if they don’t spend a lot of time in pubs themselves. My plus one works in a pub and insists that she has met this character, several times.

Darryl Evans is described as ‘. . . a disillusioned former employee of a Steel Manufacturing Company.’ Having been made redundant from the place he had worked since he was 16, he is finding life on the dole difficult. His interaction with others is limited to the employment office, his local pub, and the unannounced visits he receives from the well-meaning elderly lady upstairs, who keeps walking through his unlocked door to check that everything is OK.

The letters of rejection Darryl receives from his job applications had a definite ring of authenticity about them. The point was not laboured, but we were left with the feeling of him being on a downward spiral as far as future employment is concerned. It’s not all bad though: at one of the interviews he did meet Jackie, future girlfriend and unwitting provider of the sparkly dress that becomes an unexpected comfort to him.

Darryl relates an emotional journey through boredom and feelings of inadequacy, during which we learn that he has a bit of a thing for Dolly Parton, even down to knowing which shade of lipstick she uses. Experimenting with cross-dressing leads to him feeling more comfortable within himself, despite having to overcome long-held prejudices. Be prepared for a very poignant moment of destruction towards the end though.

The subject matter was dealt with sympathetically and with humour throughout the piece. Jake Cornford gave an excellent performance, although – possibly as a result of nerves – there were times when his very fast delivery made it difficult to understand some of what he was saying. I am not sure which image will stay with me longest, the continual scratching of the belly under a questionable grey vest, or him squeezing into the tight sparkly outfit. It’s a close call.

Written and Directed by: Rhys John Edwards
Story by: Jake Cornford
Performed by: Jake Cornford
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run at RADA Festival (but will be transferring to Cardiff later this year and Edinburgh next near).

About Irene Lloyd

Currently a desk zombie in the public sector, Irene has had no formal training or experience in anything theatrical. She does, however, seem to spend an awful lot of her spare time and spare cash going to the theatre. So, all views expressed will be from the perspective of the person on the Clapham omnibus - which is what most audiences are made up of after all.