Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman! at the Leicester Square Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman! at the Leicester Square Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman! at the Leicester Square Theatre
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19 Feb REVIEW: Joy at Etcetera Theatre

Life’s not fair. Rubbish things happen to nice people, and it’s our prerogative to grumble about them when they do. And sometimes nothing much happens to quite plain people, and it’s our prerogative to grumble about that, too. And sometimes, the unremarkable mundaneness of life swells to such a size that it blocks out the Sun, obscuring all sense of perspective and threatening to burst. Only it’s not clear what, if anything, would be left in the gap that remains, if it did. Or if anyone would ever actually notice.

Joy from Velvet Trumpet presents us with three men, all disgruntled with their status quo, and all revelling in a good moan. Meet Michael, a recent divorcee living reluctantly on his brother’s sofa; Roger, a marine police officer, usually found patrolling the Thames, but currently giving school assemblies following his suspension from active duty; and Phil, a Bakerloo Line tube train driver, battling the boredom and isolation of endless dark tunnels, and making announcements that he’s certain nobody ever listens to.

Each endearing in their own wonderful way, rightly or wrongly none of them would ever be your first choice to babysit the kids. Or even your third choice. In fact, you’d probably cancel any plans you had to prevent your kids from being left alone with any one of them. Deliciously cynical from start to finish, it’s actually a comedy, and a very funny one at that. Picking up on that very British notion of laughing at your own misfortune, we’re invited to extract the humour from the mundane, three soliloquists presenting their stories, in turn. But it’s the subtly perceptible darker overtones that are uncomfortable about the men, that make them memorable, and that make Joy different. It’s great to see a show where the audience is permitted – trusted – to draw their own conclusions from what they know is a flawed and one-sided account of the truth. Just as it’s great that a show exists that uses every imaginable toast metaphor…and some.

It has to be said, though, that there’s something quite uncomfortable about having a jolly laugh over a character contemplating suicide, however facetiously it’s done. Perhaps just a personal sensitivity of mine (and I certainly seemed to be the only one squirming in my seat), it’s less of an ideological disapproval than the observation that it seems to make my laughs dry up. But that somehow just doesn’t sit well.

Aside from my subject matter qualms, Joy is a very amusing comedy. Written and presented as three for the price of one, it has just enough of a common strand running through to tie the mini-plays into one show, the straightforward staging and setting ideal. Particularly discerning use of props allows them to both enhance the comic impact of the show as well as providing another visual focal point – a glove puppet here, a sticker there, and a toaster somewhere else… – and what’s not to love about a glove puppet!? Particularly when there’s a condom involved…

Dry and sarcastic with more than a sprinkling of resentment, Joy gives us a weird and wonderful collection of soliloquys, which are in turn heart breaking, hilarious and occasionally bemusing.

Venue: Etcetera Theatre
For tickets and information:

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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