Jules and Kath are a passionate couple - tactile, chatty and seemingly well-suited. Jules' friend Jim knows and likes them both, as a couple with a sidekick, everything seems to be ticking along just fine. But Kath is restless. She seems to feel the passion at the beginning of the relationship has petered out to friendship and a new, fresh chemistry has developed with – you guessed it – Jim. Suddenly Kath, played by a fittingly enthusiastic and then unsatisfied Patricia Allison (Ola from Netflix's Sex Education), is enraptured by her new relationship. She declares she wants a child, a baby of her own with Jim. Jim points out that she has two daughters with her ex, Jules. “They aren't children” she corrects him pointedly, “they are young women'. But they have difficulty getting pregnant and so the restlessness begins again – a seemingly destructive circular dynamic of never-ending search for perfection. Both her lovers are played well, and manage to be distinct in character despite the similarity of the heady passion of the early stages of their relationship with Kath. Jules (played by Samuel Collings) is bookish and thoughtful while Alex Mugnaioni's Jim is more extrovert and forthright. Despite the craziness of the situation, they make their roles believable.
Based on the 1953 book by Henri-Pierre Roché, the play is by Timberlake Wertenbaker, and is set in pre- and post-World War I Paris, with all the ominous implications you might expect. Presented at Jermyn Street Theatre, it is a tiny auditorium so everyone is fairly close to the action, which works well for a production focused on human emotion and atmosphere that changes as often as London's weather in Spring. The stage is abstract and minimalist – a swirling bright blue ribbon of watercolour covers the whole of the stage – although sometimes the lack of set and props make the place change between flats and countries a little confusing.
Stella Powell-Jones' direction was light and quick-paced, allowing the play to flow smoothly from scene to scene while still giving each character the opportunity to fully develop.
Overall, a solid production that was both thought-provoking and engaging. While perhaps it lends itself more easily to film as the location changes – and there is one by French director Francois Truffaut – there is more of Kath in this production than the film, and certainly it is her emotional temperature that drives the action so this feels like a just, and feminist, detail. it is certainly worth seeing for its strong performances and exploration of complex extremes of love and friendship.
An almost unbelievable plot, it is based on a semi-autobiographical work- as strange works of creativity often are. Stranger than fiction and true to life, this is 90 minutes of playful, passionate writing that will leave you with interesting questions.
It runs until 27 May.
Review: Caiti Grove Photo: Steve Gregson