BWW Review: JELLYFISH, Bush Theatre
Kelly loves Neill. The pair of them eat chips, walk along the seafront and share kisses - just like every other couple. But what makes this pair different is the stares they get from everyone else; the glares received come from a place of confusion and malice.
Kelly has downsydrome, which Neill says, "Is the least interesting thing about her." However, people don't understand their affection and instead of just let it be, they laugh. It causes friction to form between the pair; and this harassment doesn't arrive from strangers; there's an antagonist in Kelly's own home.
Her mum wants the best for her; that's undeniable. But as an audience you're never really sure whether you like her character or not. On one hand she's simply looking out for her child, protecting her from the world and people's opinions. On the other, she's overbearing and this constant smothering is preventing Kelly from truly living.
Ben Weatherill's play speaks about love in its purest form. Centring around two individuals that share an intense attachment, the narrative watches them encounter challenges at every corner. Weatherill's story is at times bleak, yet still possesses enough lightness to keep it entertaining.
There's a steady humour throughout and it's lifted with the arrival of Dominic, played by Nicky Priest. Kelly's mum has invited him over for a dinner date with her daughter. Kelly's not keen, but instead of quickly dismissing him, the pair strike up a beautiful friendship that is wonderful to watch develop.
Priest provides so much comedy; his dry delivery of the text is an exciting contrast to everyone else. Sarah Gordy plays Kelly with a beautiful delicacy. Her performance constantly invites us to connect and Tim Hoare's direction draws out a captivating honesty from her. There's a lovely intimacy that's been layered throughout the piece that's compelling to watch.
Amy Jane Cook's epic set design sees three tons of sand poured into the Bush's studio. The wooden flooring is easily removed to create new parts of furniture. Oversized mechanical illuminations decorate the wall, and when lit provide the sensation of being at a fun fair. A lot has been crammed into this small room, but it never feels too overwhelming, instead it generates a state of familiarity for the play.
A piece about overwhelming love, human nature and family connection, Jellyfish is a triumph that feels genuinely authentic and requires celebration.
Photo courtesy of the Bush Theatre