EFR - Reviews of J'n'R

J'n'R

Mon 6th – Sat 11th August 2018

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 09:11 on 7th Aug 2018

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For some reason, Juliet ditching her flight to Hong Kong to be with a man she just met feels less plausible than marrying him. It’s a pretty dodgy proposition – but so, claims ‘J’n’R’, is the message of this original play. The show seems eager to subvert the original plot in every way possible to prove that… true love doesn’t exist, it seems? However, switching the order from ‘R+J’ to ‘J+R' alone isn’t enough to put Juliet first.

Yes, this Juliet is a feminist, but it is underlined in statements rather than actions: the fact that she went on a feminist march and considers “fuck the patriarchy” an appropriate comeback is all well and good, but made less convincing when she teeters on the brink of falling into the gender roles she so ardently criticises, claiming that “love triangles are in right now”. It gets its point across, but it’s not particularly nuanced, and ‘Jules’ is unfortunately not given the dimension of character she deserves.

Unfortunately, ‘J’n’R’ seems reluctant to stick to a single premise. You’d expect some kind of homage, but the first scene consists of Romeo’s balcony speech being systematically torn down. Even the flirting itself consists of literary criticism. Sometimes it feels like love is the end-game, then a comment will make us feel as though we’re stupid for even wanting it – “women stopped believing in true love around the time they stopped wearing corsets”, Juliet opines, which made me wonder why I was watching it at all. And some comments are just plain odd, like an internship being compared to an arranged marriage. It’s not the fault of the actors, but it unfortunately makes several lines fall flat. And part of me was still wondering why ‘Richard’ wasn’t the one dropping his plans and flying to Hong Kong. Why is it always on Juliet?

Nonetheless, despite my pervasive cynicism, the whole thing is quite sweet. You can tell the actors and producers have put a lot of love into this production, and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by the ending (and I was quite relieved to find I had a heart after all). Richard (played by Shaheryar Shah) is particularly touching, his love – misguided though it may be – clearly expressed on his face. In fact, it’s when the script offers a moment to breathe that both actors do their best, when they believe in true love, and aren’t stuck quoting iambic pentameter which is immediately ridiculed. There’s limits to this, of course – a three minute pause, while both actors stare at each other, feels far too drawn out and awkward, and the audience was left not quite knowing what to do. More chemistry is conveyed through the stolen glances than in the witty comebacks attacking millennials for having internships. It’s just a shame this flight never quite takes off.

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Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 10:01 on 7th Aug 2018

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J’n’R is a comedy loosely based on the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. The press release describes the sketch as “fast-paced”, but in fact it drags on, probably due to the monotonous lack of any notable change of scene, plot, tone or dynamic.

Granted, the plot is mildly original. German cool girl Anna is waiting for her flight to Hong Kong when a guy she met once before at a party tries to win her affections by reciting Shakespeare sonnets to her, in the middle of the airport at 4am. Anyone who has experienced the ordeal of being hungover in an airport security lounge between midnight and dawn will appreciate how ironically unromantic this setting is in comparison with Juliet’s floriated balcony in Verona! Aside from this the whole spectacle is just overwhelmingly average, like Rich Tea biscuits.

Amongst the general monotony there are two more notable moments; one profound, the other profoundly cringey. The profundity asserts itself near the start of the play, when Anna interrupts her Romeo mid-flow to point out that referring to her as ‘merchandise’ is degrading, not romantic. She rightly states that the original Juliet was the victim of an arranged marriage and subject to an impenetrable patriarchy, and that it is not okay to objectify women for the sake of rhyme. Amen sister!

Sadly, her noble point is overshadowed by the most awkward three minutes of theatre that I have ever had to sit through. For some reason unbeknownst to me, my co-reviewer, and to every other member of the audience, “Romeo” pulls out his iPhone and sets a timer to go off in three minutes; the couple sit centre stage and stare into each other’s eyes, to “test” whether Anna will fall for her Romeo, Shaheryar Shah.

Although my reaction to this play is lukewarm, we must bear in mind that the Fringe is a platform for amateurs. I for one have been particularly spoilt by the luck of the draw; all of the performances that I had attended until yesterday were really first-class and certainly not what one expects from an amateur production. “J’n’R” is not in the top league of Fringe performances, but it is an interesting take on the greatest love story of all time. You won’t walk out of the theatre rapt with star-struck amazement, but you will leave with a smile on your face and a tender glow in your heart.

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