Review: Jam at the Finborough Theatre
Written for Everything Theatre
Thank god for air conditioning. On one of the hottest days of the year so far, I would normally not be looking forward to spending my evening in a tiny black box theatre above a pub. The Finborough Theatre, however, is one of those rare gems that have both excellent programming and excellent aircon. (All hail the Finborough Ice Dragon, who, by the way, has his own Twitter account.)
Nevertheless, the ambience was pretty uncomfortable for most of the evening, thanks to Matt Parvin’s new play Jam. Secondary school teacher Bella Soroush (Jasmine Hyde) is working late one evening when the past comes knocking, in the form of ex-pupil Kane McCarthy (Harry Melling) who ruined her life ten years ago. Now, Kane has a brain tumour and he has decided it’s time to hash it all out before it’s too late. I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, even though it’s not hard to see where Parvin is taking his characters.
That doesn’t really matter though, because the tension throughout the play is so palpable that you’ll be on the edge of your seat regardless. From the moment he steps into the scene, there’s a sense of barely concealed menace about Melling. As the evening progresses, so do the roles and there is also a lot more than meets the eye to Hyde’s Miss Soroush. Hyde and Melling work well together, circling one another as their roles shift and slide in this complicated game of give and take.
If you’re going to see the show yourself, I would recommend making your way up to the auditorium well before the start. Not only will that allow you to grab a good seat, but it’ll also give you enough time with Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s soundscape to get you in the right mood and properly set your teeth on edge. Emma Bailey's set contributes to the unsettling mood as well: the large construction takes up so much of the already limited space that the auditorium feels even smaller, almost forcing the actors into their audience’s laps at some points. At the same time, the set’s height differences give the characters a very physical way to fight out their power struggle.
There are a couple of minor hitches. Melling gets so into the role of mumbling Kane that, sometimes, he is almost unintelligible. And with the audience sitting on three sides and not a lot of space for the actors, staging is difficult: I found myself trying to peer around Melling’s back to catch a glimpse of the rest of the action on more than one occasion. That aside, this is an uneasy and gripping piece of new writing featuring two bloody good performances. Catch it while you can.
Jam is playing at the Finborough Theatre until 17 June 2017