BWW Review: JAM, Finborough Theatre
Harry Potter alumnus, Harry Melling, gives us a Kane overflowing with psychological damage - low self-esteem, ADHD, drifting through life - but not without charm and a certain boyish innocence. Jasmine Hyde's Bella is his hardnosed history teacher from ten years ago, ambitious, brusque but not without emotional baggage herself, something that comes out not just in her dealings with Kane, but in her carapace of misogyny, built up over the years, simply to get on with the day.
All through in 90 minutes, we slowly learn of this odd couple's backstory, the classroom clashes leading to something much worse that neither have "processed", the incident hanging between them like a bad smell. The problem with this structure is two fold: it takes such a long time in its exposition that the narrative drive of the first half dissipates in the second; and, as the gravity of the decade old confrontation becomes clear, it makes the initial interactions wholly unbelievable. (The familiar issue of "Why doesn't she use her mobile phone?" nags away in the back of the mind too). The play's credibility is gone long before the end.
Though allowances must be made for a young playwright making his way, Melling and Hyde's excellent performances - circling each other, both saying more with their eyes than with their mouths - are largely squandered on a script that needs tightening and an injection or two of plausibility. I can say this with some confidence, because the aforementioned Gotcha gets all that right and shows what Jam might have been, but sadly isn't.
Photo Matthew Foster