Tag Archives: Lucy Jane Parkinson

Dutch Treat

ROTTERDAM

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 23rd April, 2019

 

Alice is a British girl working in Holland.  New Year’s Eve is fast approaching and she’s in anguish over an email she’s trying to write to her parents, finally telling them that she is gay.  On hand to offer advice is girlfriend Fiona, a down-to-earth northerner – trouble is, Fiona has her own revelation to make: she is a he and wants to present as such.  Alice has difficulties supporting ‘Adrian’, fearing the loss of the woman she loves…

So begins Jon Brittain’s searing social comedy, on tour at last.  The writing is sharp and funny, and it rings true, emotionally speaking.  And there is more to the piece than laughter.  The play gives us an insight into the personal lives of people who transition, in an empathetic albeit hilarious and sometimes moving fashion.  The setting – Rotterdam – a port where everyone is either coming or going, reflects the state of flux of the play’s central relationship.

As uptight Alice, Bethan Cullinane is utterly credible, whether Alice’s outbursts are sarcastic or heartfelt.  Equally strong is the excellent Lucy Jane Parkinson as Fiona/Adrian, plain-speaking in some respects and desperate to articulate emotions and experiences at other times.  As the pair come under strain, we are brought to an understanding of both points of view.

They are supported by Elijah W Harris as Adrian’s brother and Alice’s ex (and now her best friend), Josh (Brittain keeps it in the family for added confusion and comedy value!), and Ellie Morris as Dutch party girl Lelani.  Harris is the mediator, the Apollo to Morris’s Dionysus, pulling Alice in opposing directions.  Both are great, with Morris in particular being very funny.

Director Donnacadh O’Briain gets comedy and emotion from his cast – even the transitions are fun (the scenic transitions, I mean!); there is also subtlety here.  Beneath all the yelling and histrionics, the emotional truth comes out.   It’s a vibrant, extremely likeable and thought-provoking production that sheds light on aspects of today’s society about which there is ignorance and prejudice.  The humour makes the characters relatable, which leads to better understanding of this slice of human experience.  Above all, it’s a love story and everyone can relate to that.

I could have done without the blaring electropop music though.  Perhaps I’m just old.

Bethan-Cullinane-Lucy-Jane-Parkinson-Rotterdam-e1555095942266

Bethan Cullinane and Lucy Jane Parkinson (Photo: Helen Maybanks)

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Derby and Joan

JOAN

Derby Theatre Studio, Derby, Saturday 18th July, 2015

 

The studio at Derby Theatre is set out for a spot of in-the-round. We sit behind tables on chairs and stools – it’s like pub theatre and there is even a bar in one corner. While we take our seats, a young woman in a ‘Tank Girl’ tee-shirt and black shorts is pacing around, murmuring, “She’ll be here in a minute.”

This is Joan. Of Joan of Ark fame. When the houselights go down, she takes centre-stage to tell us her story. It’s down-to-earth stuff and very funny, like a Northern comic, like Paul Shane. Joan is mannish and behaves oddly for a girl in thirteenth century France. She doesn’t conform to gender expectations, although she gives it a good go, enlisting a man from the front row to be a potential suitor. There’s a lot of this: direct audience address, speaking to individuals, borrowing a jacket, asking questions, but so engaging is the performance, irresistible in its insistence, that we stop feeling on edge and go with it. When it comes to full-on audience participation for a battle scene, we do our best, with only a little cajoling.

This version of Joan’s biography is enormous fun and a great laugh but it also engages our emotions with its lyrical passages: Joan’s visions of Saint Catherine, for example. And then we’re off again with a contrasting change of pace: writer/director Lucy J Skilbeck keeps the laughs coming, the story moving, and the writing beautiful in a blistering first play.

It’s a one-woman show, a tour de force (your actual French) performance from Lucy Jane Parkinson, whose energy is infectious and her ad libs quick-fire and sharp. Before our very eyes she transforms herself into key male figures from Joan’s life, and each successive transformation is more elaborate, more startling. Parkinson is an award-winning drag king – and you can easily see why. There are songs, cabaret-style, humorous and catchy – until Joan’s final torch song (pun intended) touches the heart.  Joshua Pharo’s lighting and David Lewington’s subtle sound design take us from the pub setting and into a France of our imagination but it’s Parkinson who commands our attention.

It’s an exhilarating, captivating show as much about humanity and gender restrictions (still prevalent today) as it is a history lesson. Joan may go to the stake but Lucy Jane Parkinson sets the world on fire.

Publicity image for JOAN

Publicity image for JOAN