Ask any theatre lover to name a show about a break-up with a guy named Jamie, and we jump to The Last Five Years and one of the all-time best opening numbers in a musical “Still Hurting”. Or this might just be me? Anyway, this afternoon’s show at the Etcetera Theatre, above The Oxford Arms (a friendly pub filled with an intriguing mix of locals and tourists) gives us another story about a break-up from a Jamie.
Charlotte, played with warmth and charm by Anais Gralpois, wears her heart on her sleeve, or as she keeps reminding us, in her new podcast. She’s been dumped. So now she’s going through the six stages of her breakup and sharing her progress with her listeners. First up, there’s a ukulele and some Taylor Swift style songs. The songs are very funny, with wonderfully subtle Swift influences seeping through. Although she’s obviously struggling with the breakup, her humour still shines through. It doesn’t take long to warm to Charlotte and sympathise with her situation as she alternates between stuffing chicken nuggets in her mouth and doing sit ups. She says that they balance each other out – and we all know she’s correct.
Charlotte is American, yet when Anais Gralpois hops around stage to inhabit the other characters – her best friend and her ex-boyfriend – she captures that posh London twang perfectly. She also physically changes to represent these characters. It’s a treat to watch her chameleon-like performance. It also helps to lift the show from purely a monologue, cleverly taking us back to a memory.
The set is simple, a messy room littered with Cosmopolitan magazine, Jaffa cakes and scattered items of clothing. One of the best props is Kevin, the giant monkey with a French accent, the reason why he’s French is never explained, and eight of Jamie’s jumpers – loaded with memories. Besides, It’s a podcast so why would she need much on stage?
Just when you might start to fidget in your seat, there’s only so much crying over a breakup anyone can take, there’s a twist, and it’s genuinely shocking. One you really don’t see coming. It changes the entire perspective of the show we’ve watched up to that point, and her reflections following this are both thought provoking and moving. Without giving away a spoiler, it makes you question whether your perception of someone’s cruelty could change.
As I sit in the pub garden following the show, my Mum and I chat about our own relationships and the similarities or differences to Charlotte’s with Jamie. That’s the beauty of theatre. It prompts conversations. It sparks debate. And all we are missing is Charlotte, to delve into the ins and outs of her relationship with us over a nice cold cider.
Written by: Anais Gralpois
Directed by: Annie Kefalas
The Six Stages of A Break Up played as part of Camden Fringe at Etcetera Theatre until 7 August.
The show plays at theSpace on North Bridge until 27 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.