Brighton Fringe 2022
“Dennis Kelly is one of the UK’s most extraordinary and original writers working today.
“Savagely funny with a dark narrative running through it. The play is told backwards and we see the unravelling of the main characters Jess and David in reverse order. It’s a world of easy credit and designer goods – What could possibly go wrong?”
There is no doubt every member of this superb company is giving outstanding performances- well balanced- three dimensional and never self-indulgent- which is the strength of this production.
First performed at the Royal Exchange in 2006-the play itself is not an easy “Watch” -and one is urged to read the programme note- “The Play is told Backwards”- and to accept it all retrospectively. It can make for a dis-jointed evening however and much as praise has been heaped on Dennis Kelly’s dark and obsessive comedy – one has to face up to one’s own impressions by the end of the evening and accept that it is going to be open to individual interpretation. As an audience member -one has to be as much on the ball as the protagonists.
From the opening scene- starkly lit from the glare of a lap-top, with back projection- Jack Kristiansen gives a strong central portrayal of David and is totally immersed in the character-and his eloquent and opening scene sets the evening rolling at a fast pace-finely balancing pathos and humour to perfection. Here is an actor who has clearly conquered the plays tricky timeline.
Paul Moriarty and Peta Taylor are equally powerful as Jess’s mother and father- angrily taking out their revenge and destruction on a large statue overshadowing their daughter’s grave. Their scene has overtones of Pinter and Orton -played at such a cracking pace that the actors do unintentionally overlap-not a distraction -but uncertainty in these early performances will no doubt be finely tuned.
The evening undoubtedly owes its power and strength to the comedic masterclasses of Sarah Mann- firstly as David’s Ex-wife – Val—when time goes back to before Jess’s death and David is forced to accept a job from her- for which he is over qualified .Mann drives the scene through like a knife through butter with a top notch characterisation and when the second act opens with her as Debbie -in a nightclub with Duncan( Nathan Ariss)- a sleazy ‘agent’ -offering opportunities in pornography -it is hard to believe one is seeing the same performers. Both actor/producers are simply excellent in their intensity and ability to transform into dual roles.
Amy Kidd as Jess is the backbone to the second act -firstly in a powerful scene where David comes to see Jess in a hospital having just witnessed a bad assault whilst out shopping and feeding her spending addiction.
Kidd’s long monologue as Jess– (on one hand overjoyed and philosophical at having been proposed to but over-shadowed by wanting to be a more like the people in the magazines)-is timed to perfection (as well as being exquisitely lit with a myriad of fairy lights in the auditorium)- and Kidd shows fine qualities here as an actress of consummate skill-holding the audience’s attention throughout.
The company is a brilliant ensemble – without a weak link-which conquer the plays more challenging moments- particularly the surreal act one scene where characters are denoted only by numbers -examining the nature of death and money who appear to symbolise the conflict and conscience within Jess, who occasionally responds to their cascading tirade of remarks
This is one of those evenings that one questions -long after the curtain call – disjointed and un-connected at times- but with fine direction by Nick Bartlett and simple yet effective set and lighting design – Mr Kelly’s work has been given a thorough outing for which all must be congratulated.