If the character in Rubber Ring goes by the same name as the writer – properly addressed as James but his acquaintances call him Jimmy – is there at least an element of autobiographical storytelling going on here? I say ‘acquaintances’ deliberately as Jimmy claims to have ‘no friends’. Whether he really does or not I couldn’t possibly say as we only hear his story from his perspective, almost always the downside to a one-man show, even one such as this that has Jimmy voicing a large number of other characters that have had some role or other to play in this coming-of- age comedy.
Jimmy is rather unkind to Norfolk, and I couldn’t decide whether this was a form of banter or a genuine ‘I hate my home county’ monologue. Perhaps it is a combination of both. His hometown is, apparently, “the seaside town they (presumably the Third Reich) forgot to bomb”. Nobody in Norfolk can read, he asserts, surely a gross exaggeration, and they don’t know what 4G is as it allegedly doesn’t exist there. By ‘Norfolk’ what Jimmy seems to really mean is the immediate rural vicinity of where he grew up (there must be 4G in places like Norwich, I would have thought) and there’s a strong sense of the grass always being greener on the other side, what with some Londoners conversely wanting to escape to the country. He’s desperate to get out of Sheringham and down to London, which forms the major part of his story.
Before that, though, there’s some classroom humour to be enjoyed, particularly with one teacher who sounds like a bee because she insists on being called ‘Ms’ rather than ‘Miss’. Some of the put-downs from pupils were, as one might reasonably expect, a little puerile, but believable – there’s no sense that James McDermott, doubling up as playwright and performer, is out-of-touch with what passes for playground terminology.
Political correctness is thrown to the wind in this laugh-out-loud piece of theatre laced with acerbic wit. It’s not exactly family viewing, and in the recalling of private conversations the audience is exposed to the sort of things said only behind closed doors. Such an unsubtle and occasionally uncouth style of humour won’t suit everyone, but the piece is nonetheless delivered with passion, revealing variously both the bravado and vulnerability of Jimmy, and his sense of urgency to break out of the mould and the creeping realisation that his plan of action is more than a little underdeveloped.
There are certain details of the story that sacrifice authenticity for comic and dramatic effect, but it is as far as it could get from being one absurd embellishment after another until the tale eventually loses all credibility. The ending was unexpected and left so open-ended to the point where the show felt like it ought to have had another hour to run after an interval. ‘Then what?’ was the prevailing viewpoint in my mind. But it’s always better, as I never tire of saying, to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay an audience’s welcome.
This is an all-too-short but absorbing and amusing production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“I’m sixteen. I don’t know whether I like boys or girls. I live in Sheringham. I’m f*cked. Well I’m not actually, that’s the problem.”
Jimmy’s sixteen, sexually confused and stuck in Sheringham; the seaside town they forgot to bomb. When Morrissey comes to London, Jimmy flees to the city to try and find his hero and himself.
Velvet Trumpet present work that is bittersweet and above all funny. They are proud to present this witty debut play by windswept Norfolk playwright James McDermott.
Supported by Unity Theatre Trust.
31st Oct 2016 – 6th Nov 2016
StageSpace – Pleasance London
Suitable for ages 14 and above