The Spectacular Mr. & Mrs. Jones
This play is a thoroughly fun trip into the world of illusion. It has everything you could ask for in a magic show, and each trick is only enhanced by the intimate space of the courtroom. If you’re prepared for sleight of hand and misdirection galore, you won’t be disappointed, because this show absolutely delivers.
The play claims it will induce mass hallucinations in the audience, just like the Victorian stage show of the original Mr. and Mrs. Jones. This works on several levels, as the strong physical performances by both actors carry us from the present moment, back into a reprisal of the original stage act from the 1890s. If you manage not to shudder with awe in the moment Mrs. Jones (Lizzie Tollemache) captures her husband’s love, you’ll be far ahead of her Victorian audiences (and this reviewer). Plus there’s the time someone will swear Mr. Jones (David Ladderman) tapped their shoulder from across the room.
I really appreciated the attention this duo pays to their physical presence on the stage. They make great use of the space, and their chemistry to draw the audience into the show. Right from the opening gags, you’ll know these two are masters of comedic timing and know how to play to the crowd. The lighting and sound design is also used to great effect, as it unobtrusively aids the transitions from story-telling to story-living.
And this, at the intersection of the performance here and now and the story of the Joneses, is where this play falls a bit short. In fact, the context feels incidental to the capering fun (and rising drama) of the act itself. There just don’t seem to be stakes for the Jones characters, and we have no inkling of from where the conclusion to their story arrives. You might call it a bit of misdirection, because while you get to know the Joneses during the performance, they don’t inspire the sort of magnetic attention as characters that you would expect from the Victorian toasts of Christchurch.
Despite a lack of dramatic tension on the story-telling side of things, I enjoyed this show a lot. The magic tricks certainly need no apology, and the actors commanded a wonderful attention on stage. In any case, the drama of the piece lies in the present-day audience’s immersion in the show, and not in retelling the story that inspired it. The company seems to have set out to actually focus your mind completely on the moment you’re living in order to embrace the magic of their performance, and in this they do a magnificent job. It wasn’t really about the Joneses, but the strong feeling of being alive that acts like theirs can stir up.
Upcoming shows: (BYOV C: Arts Court Courtroom)
June 20 @ 21:00
June 21 @ 22:30
June 22 @ 22:30
June 26 @ 19:00
June 27 @ 17:30
June 28 @ 21:00
June 29 @ 15:00