Saturday 3rd December, 15:15
Running Time: 95 mins inc. interval
The Park Theatre is one of my favourite fringe theatres in London – it’s a relatively new space on the arts scene, opening in 2012, and manned by volunteer ushers. This is by no means unique, but there is a real community feel to the space that many larger theatres do not capture. It also contains two spaces, the larger PARK200 and the smaller PARK90, which is where Saving Jason has been playing.
Saving Jason is a new comedy by Peter Quilter, who is possibly best known for the Judy Garland based End of the Rainbow. The play concerns the fake funeral of the titular character in an attempt to wake him up to the potential consequences of his drug use. This intervention is hindered by the various issues that arise from the boy’s family such as the mother’s previous alcoholism to his uncle’s closeted homosexuality.
The play takes a while to get going – there are many moments were the audience is unsure of whether this is a real funeral or not, which in some respects feels muddled. However, once the play gets through the first ten minutes, this uncertainty disappears, and takes the audience on a riotous cascade of Lord of the Dance, ecstasy and vol-au-vents. There are numerous witty one-liners and many humorous passages, however once it gets to the second half it can get a little preachy and moralistic. Arguably, some of the more serious issues are not tackled, however, this is a comedy, rather than a GCSE Drama piece that tackles issues and I felt this wasn’t to the detriment of the piece. The only other flaw is that certain lines do not ring 100% true as being from the nineties – the description of ecstasy as MDMA at one point feels odd and a Forrest Gump reference is more current to be used now rather than at the time.
The cast are uniformly excellent – of particular note for me was Julie Armstrong as Angela (one of my favourite moments of the piece was her stamping around to Lord of the Dance in the Act 1 finale, which was a spectacle and really left the audience wanting more) and also Paddy Navin as Mary, who was able to bring much humour to the role but also great pathos to the role in the character’s weaker moments.
The play’s set is also exceptionally good – the studio space is set in the round, and with the audience on all sides they feel like part of the action, with a simple, naturalistic-looking room. The only flaw in this is that certain furniture items are slightly blocked from certain viewpoints (mainly in the corners) which can impair on certain sections.
Summary = A new comedy with a great cast. A slow start pays off and ends in an enjoyable and intriguing play. ****