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Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto at Brighton Fringe – Review

The two temporary Rotunda Theatres are situated in Brighton’s Regency Square, these days looking rather faded and unloved, especially as the grass hides an underground car park, visitors being allowed to barbecue on the grass and motor cyclists race around it – so there are plenty of distractions for any aspiring performer.

Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto at Brighton Fringe
Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto at Brighton Fringe

Victoria Hancock, in the guise of Jeu Jeu de Voille, has been presenting this one person performance piece for several years. Knowing that it was about the coercive power of men over women, I thought I would invite as my guest a young female American student who has recently been working in a small London theatre, and who had not experienced the Brighton Fringe before.

Hancock tells us in her flyer that her show is “a strange, poetic and acerbically silly take on intimate partner violence and the revolution we need“, and first of all we are introduced to a male skeleton who interrogates “her” as to how many holes a straw has. Instead of telling him not to ask such silly and irritating questions “she” tries to respond sensibly many times, thereby quickly escalating the silliness to an argument.

One of the problems with the show is that much of it is spoken in French, presumably because that is where the “revolution” started; at least that it was what my colleague thought! I took A-level French fifty-five years ago, and so did she but much more recently. Even so, we both had problems translating much of what Hancock said, and were usually at least one sentence behind. For those with no French, those parts of the performance will have been lost!

At one point in the proceedings, Hancock completely lost any communication she may have had with the audience, because she suddenly produced two closely typed sheets of A4 paper which she placed on the floor and then began reading from them, head/face down so that we could not see her expressions, and as if she were reading both poems, for that is what they were, for the first time. Both were long and dense and we might have got much more from them if they had been committed to memory and read with some expression.

Hancock’s website tells us that she trained as a mime artiste, but one would never know this from her performance in Testy Manifesto. The piece meanders for about an hour but never seems to come up with anything new to say, let alone any solutions and is slowed down by frequent costume changes. Even the appearance of a Barbie doll which was handed around the audience seemed to have no purpose. Rarely indeed were there any moments of climax and even more rarely were her “writings…beautiful melodies telling you terrible things“. It never “delved deep into the mechanisms of intimate partner violence” as her flyer claimed. In fact, she appeared to have little to say on the subject. A great shame as there is a lot to be said and done about this problem.

We came out of this performance asking ourselves what Testy Manifesto had actually been about and asking ourselves what we had learned, the answer, I am afraid, being very little!

2 gold stars

Review by John Groves

Enchantress weaves words of inner resilience, recovery and revolution in a striking visual anthology. Strange, poetic and acerbically silly, Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto combines linguistic acrobatics with evocative images, puppetry, and sensory experiences to delve deep into the mechanisms of intimate partner violence.

This ‘difficult’ second album is the follow-up to Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Frontal Lobotomy, which dealt with experimental brain surgery, while heavily under the influence of Tom Waits. Jeu Jeu la Foille is a poet, clown, and burlesque maverick who likes beautiful melodies telling her terrible things.

Presented as part of Brighton Fringe 2024

Book Tickets for Theatre Royal Brighton


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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