Thursday, 7 May 2015

Jennifer’s Robot Arm Opening Night Overview By Paul Twonkey Vickers.
I had a quirky dream the other night that a gentleman friend of mine had set up a new social club called… wait for it…. The Titty Club (its not what you think). It seemed to be a club where people could discuss illuminating ideas and you had to have on your person a walking cane and a prepared subject to talk about. If the other persons subject/ideas seemed preposterous you would respond by saying "you're a tit "and then they would say, "no, you’re a tit"…. hence the name. One of the subjects discussed was the new play I have written called Jennifer’s Robot Arm which reminded me I really need to update my blog about my feelings on the opening night at the Bread and Roses theatre in Clapham.
Before hand there was some high jinks back stage as the actors prepared to perform, with me being the writer and present, it felt like I was making them a little nervous. However I had no intension of sitting at the back with a copy of the script tracking every line and making sure none was missed, I trusted them I had watched the video of the rehearsed reading at the White Bear theatre and knew the show was in safe hands. It was odd for me to sit and watch something I had written and not be part of the performing but the same time a strange joy. I wish I could have seen all three nights that would have been a luxury I would have dearly enjoyed.
The opening scene in the garden was delightful. Conner Jones dolled up in white face paint acted excited with panache. He was full of hope about his fitness and his high sex drive. Conner’s performance throughout surprised me the most as he’d taken his character a lot further since the reading. My favourite part of the whole show was when a red light descended on him when he talked about fixing Jennifer’s arm using wheat to jam the locks. It was as if this was a warning of something he does often but should be avoided at all costs. It’s these little twists that really bring the writing to life.
Conner’s performance had a Dennis Potter Blue Remembered Hills feel to it, which was also echoed in Miranda's performance as Jennifer. Jennifer was the powerhouse at the centre of the show. Miranda Shrapnell made her so believable you really worried for her. I imagined the show being acted out in a slightly wooden and camp manner. Miranda took on Jennifer much further then I imagined. So you really felt for Jennifer as we all travelled the roller coaster of emotions that she of course would be going through as the horrendous circumstances of the show unfolded. The physicality of her performance gave the show energy the rest of the cast played off especially Conner. They’re such a great double act. Jennifer in a way became the straight actor that made you invest in the story whole-heartedly.
John Rushton’s take on Pam, Jennifer’s mother was dry and suicidal but thoroughly confident. A little more vulnerability came through at times as Pam does have moments of agonised tenderness especially towards her daughter Jennifer. Pam marched on and off with a casual flick of the hair and sexy pout that always sent a mutter of chuckles in her wake but never tears as mummy doesn’t like tears. The old music hall panto feel of the Pam character was coming through loud and clear with that little twist of Nuts in May.
So then to Simon Jay the director, producer and performer. He presented this show in the manner of a Bauhaus art show it had a whiff of The Tiger Lilies about it, which was delightful. His own performance was high camp and sinister and so it should be. The Inventor is the mad hatter playing with the rest of the cast to fulfil his own boredom and not worried of the consequences of his actions. He also gave the show an otherworldly quality like a Doctor Who villain turning up in a kitchen sink drama.Perfect.
I was pleased that the new ending worked giving the audience the satisfaction of a happy ending after such a strange journey only seems fair. Now where do we go next? I’ll have to munch down some driving biscuits with Simon and company and come up with a plan. I am so pleased we have a wonderful cast and show.