Saving Jason, a new comedy by Peter Quilter, depicts a rather extraordinary set of circumstances. The Gedge family, despairing of their son’s drug-taking, stage his funeral in their living room, complete with urn, memorial cards, hymns and Iceland finger buffet. 17-year- old Jason is, quite naturally, freaked out by being invited to attend his own funeral, and what ensues is an onslaught of blame-making and finger-pointing, as each character, in turn, gets ripped apart by a rather put out Jason.
The play draws heavily on the more farcical elements of, say, Alan Ayckbourn, sending up larger-than- life characters and mocking their individual addictions to personal drugs of choice: alcoholism; prescriptions drugs; and tobacco. Set in the 1990s, as the rave-and-ecstasy trend really began to kick in, the play hits upon the lack of parental control or understanding, the unknown entities of these drugs, and the sense of foreboding and mortality that perhaps descended upon these families. In descending into melodrama, however, the play perhaps loses some of the punch that a subtler, more honest approach might have delivered. In setting the play in the round, in the Gedge’s living room, there is no escape for the audience; they are immersed in the action, which, with the constant moving of characters, the food being flung across the room, and the perpetual sloshing of brandy, becomes relentlessly chaotic.
The set is in fact sublime; much attention to detail renders this an entirely believable space, an ‘urban prison’ torn apart by drugs in all their forms, as the characters grapple with their true meaning and purpose in life, or simply attempt to suspend the boredom that goes hand in hand with suburban life. The cast also do well in their roles, especially Jacques Miché as the stroppy teen, and Paddy Navin as the rather dotty neighbour Mary. Her short but entirely welcome appearances somewhat ground the piece, lending it a moral compass and a voice of reason, despite her own battle with early-onset dementia.
Perhaps the main issue with Saving Jason is that whilst enjoyable, the play does not fully address the true grit of the themes it presents: frustratingly, key issues often get skirted over or simply made into a joke. With characters all braying at each other simultaneously, it is hard to like or sympathise with anyone, or engage in their arguments. That said, Saving Jason is amusing in parts, and a fun idea for a play. I’m just not sure I’ll be taking my teenage nephew to see it anytime soon; he’ll likely come away more curious about Class A drugs than I might like.
Review by Amy Stow
Daniel Krupnik Productions in Association with Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
by Peter Quilter
Directed by Steven Dexter
In 90s suburbia, a family takes extraordinary measures to confront the behaviour of their rebellious teenage son. But when the plan descends into chaos, it becomes clear that Jason is far from being the only one with secrets to hide.
ANGELA – JULIE ARMSTRONG
LINDA – TOR CLARK
JASON – JACQUES MICHE
MARY – PADDY NAVIN
TREVOR – WILLIAM OXBORROW
DEREK – CORY PETERSON
DIRECTOR – STEVEN DEXTER
WRITER – PETER QUILTER
PRODUCER – DANIEL KRUPNIK
PRODUCER – AMANDA HOLLAND
ASSISTANT PRODUCER – CRAIG NOM CHONG
ASSISTANT PRODUCER – PRUDENCE SMITH
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER – ANDREW RILEY
LIGHTING DESIGNER I ALEX DROFIAK
STAGE MANAGER – JADE LOUISE HUNTER
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER – BETH ABSALOM
Plays until: 3 Dec 2016
Thu & Sat Matinees 15.15
Running Time: 2 hrs including interval
Age Guidance: 15+