Joy (Dina Gordon) is, for all intents and purposes, talking to herself, in a short but intense play. You know those conversations that go on into the small hours, where the world is put to rights? With no actual companion, however – ‘John’ having left the room before the point in the narrative before the show begins – Joy is left to think out loud, and the show comes across as a stream of consciousness, flitting from subject to subject, on the flimsiest of connections. Sometimes two words sounding similar is enough to go off on another tangent. Joy is about Joy but not about joy.
Gordon’s vocal range is impressive, demonstrated through the spoken monologue as well as through deliberately off-key renderings sprinkled through the performance of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’. There’s some physical theatre to enjoy too, though I’m still not sure what to make of the frenetic movement in the final scene, or what it was supposed to symbolise. What I can say is that there’s a big finale to draw matters to an abrupt close.
It’s worth mentioning the music, mixed on stage by Andrea Giordani. It’s the kind of beat that suits the youthful atmosphere of the Vault Festival. Despite being far removed from the sort of music I would ordinarily listen to on the rare occasions when I have some downtime, I must admit I found it very easy to enjoy. This contrasted, for better or for worse, with a somewhat jarring script, which brought to the table a lot of ideas, concepts and topics, but only a select few are developed any further beyond surface level. An example: a small white Bible is picked up. We are told it is the ‘Good News’ translation, but nothing more, and then the book is discarded, with, as far as I could deduce, no further discussion of organised religion. So why was it included in proceedings at all?
Joy has had a very full and colourful life (either that or she has eight or nine split personalities), having visited numerous places around the world. Her observations range from elementary (America is big) to thought-provoking (“talking is your receipt for having lived” – that is, if you have nothing to talk about, what does that say about you?) to downright bizarre (one particular sex session was “like sleeping with existentialism”). A stash of around four dozen bananas are pulled out from under a bed: I found the time and the inclination during the show to do an approximate count – make of that what you will. At least fifteen more comprise a ‘banana skirt’ later on. One needs energy for bedroom activity, y’see.
To put it another way, much is open to interpretation. As it stands, the show is very broad in scope and could benefit from narrowing down what messages it wants to put across – in this regard, less is more. Further, the show seems to be at its strongest in moments of righteous indignation. This may be a controversial view, but I think this feisty character needs to be a tad angrier, at least in expressing her opinions. Then Joy really would be unconfined.
Review by Chris Omaweng
It’s 5am in an east London warehouse. The aftermath of an S&M party is scattered across the floor. Joy is found. The man she slept with is gone.
To fill the no-man’s land between night and day, Joy casts her memory to the past. Breezing through random crap on the floor, she remembers when she was Italian and on the cusp of marriage. A French prostitute at the end of a shift. A young girl losing her virginity. A slave hot in the afternoon sun. The memories are at once fun and rotten, clichéd yet bizarre. A reference to the sex she had, or the archaic recollections of a zeitgeist?
JOY explores the fallout of the African diaspora and its point of departure is the aftermath of sex.
There’s a post-coitus concert in town. The music has never been better (the woman has never been louder).
10 — 11 Feb 15:15
Duration: 1 hour