Tuesday, 3 August 2021

REVIEW: John and Jen at the Southwark Playhouse

John and Jen takes place in the USA spanning from 1985 to 2022. The musical opens as we are introduced to siblings Jen (Rachel Tucker), at 7 years old, cradling her baby brother, John (Lewis Cornay) in their secret attic (designed by Natalie Johnson). Time passes quickly as we see the pair’s relationship dynamic change from vowing to protect each other from their abusive father to being a stereotypical teenager embarrassed by her younger brother to Jen going to college and leaving John behind to ‘hold the fort’. Supposedly years down the line, John begins to idolise his father and becomes extremist in his patriotic views and decides to join the forces.

The story slows to a more welcome pace as the musical becomes more sombre towards the end of the first act when John passes away after fighting in the war. 

Cornay returns in the second act, playing Jen’s son- also named John- who struggles with being over attended to by his mother who will not let him out of her sight. At times it is difficult to enjoy as you watch Jen blame herself for the men who look up to her grow up to be abusive and frustrated by her, as well as be laughed at for being unable to hold down a stable relationship, despite the boys having no support from the men in their lives who have fallen short. 

Almost completely sung-through, Tucker’s powerful vocals are impressive as always and standing ovation worthy- especially her rendition of ‘The Road Ends Here’. Cornay captures his characters with incredible youthful essence and showcases his exceptional vocal versatility. 

Lead by Andrew Ma and his 4-piece band (violinists Tom Crofton-Green and Elaine Ambrose- also on viola and cellist David Hornberger), the score is mostly a pleasure to listen to, however, for an updated version of the show, it still seems like an outdated narrative.

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £22

Blog Design by pipdig