The Nottingham New Theatre UNCUT season gets emotional this week with Jake Leonard’s Jack, aged 5 and a half. Directed by Matt Miller and produced by Jenny Kohnhorst, this is one you don’t want to miss.
We were led by torchlight around the back of the theatre into one of the new performance spaces that the new building has to offer. For this performance the studio has been transformed into a childhood playroom with pictures adorning the walls (apparently drawn by passers-by in Portland) and toys littering the floor. The audience are seated either on cushions or on benches. I was lucky enough to plonk myself on a bean bag for the 45 minute play (any longer and I think my bum would have gone numb). The small space allows for a great intimacy between the actors and audience, who become part of the playroom, dodging play fights and lightsabers! A fun atmosphere which evokes feelings of nostalgia.
Capturing childhood on stage is often difficult for older actors who simply seem to forget the joys of youth and I had my doubts for this performance. However it is apparent that Ajay Stevenson (Ben) took great pleasure in transforming himself into a four year old; his remote chewing, nose picking and floor licking are fantastic and entirely convincing. Ben’s ‘lucky dice dance’ was a particular highlight of mine and had the audience in stitches. I congratulate the trio for their great childlike voices, which avoid lapsing into ridiculous renditions of a cooing baby with wide eyes. Each masters the voice, the movement and expressions of a child. The dynamic between Ben and Jack, played by Sam Peake, is fantastic, the comic timing brilliant.
Big sister Emma, played by Nadia Amico, recounts her childhood and her less than perfect relationships with her two brothers. Amico’s ability to transform from a university student back to an eight year old is excellent and her monologues, whilst being a little wordy, carry the performance. Completely in command of her own emotion and that of the audience, her final monologue is worthy of particular praise.
The ‘dark and delicate subject matter’ of Leonard’s writing is addressed with such poignancy and simplicity in the relationships between three siblings: there is no excuse for a dry eye. In such a short amount of time you will laugh, cry and then find yourself in hysterics once more; a huge credit to Jake Leonard. Go and see it, but take a tissue!
See Jack, aged 5 and a half, tonight (4th Dec) at the Nottingham New Theatre. Email [email protected] to book tickets.