IF you like theatre on steroids, Unleash the Llama’s JEW…ish will be right up your street. It’s loud, humorous, zany, but not without a healthy helping of creamy charm. The equivalent of a one hour ‘trip’ on Red Bull.
Running at the King’s Head Theatre in London’s Islington until Sunday January 19, it follows the on-off relationship between a stentorian Max (Saul Boyer) and TJ (Edie Newman). There’s a strong whiff of polyamory in the air throughout – it’s at the university polyamory club where they first met – as they seek the counsel of psychiatrists to patch up their differences, while mothers and grand-mothers loom large, dead or alive.
It doesn’t take long for Max, a comedian and a barista, to put his cards on the table. At the play’s beginning, he minces on to the stage triumphantly, belting out a song confirming his faith: ‘I’m a Jew, one of the chosen few.’ He strides off stage left, just as performing artist TJ appears stage right – wearing a rubber ring and proclaiming her commitment to a gender-neutral society and waving a flag for Greta. ‘No more wars,’ she cries. The scene has been well and truly set for the boisterous chaos that ensues. Max and TJ do not disappoint.
What follows is a war of words with ‘issues’ fizzing to the surface like the bubbles of a freshly poured can of Red Bull (the main one being that Max is stereotypical Jewish, TJ is not). They furiously bitch about each other, only to follow such vitriol with loving words. ‘I love the stupid bastard,’ says TJ at one stage, only for the next scene to have them at loggerheads before delivering speeches at a friend’s wedding and then raging at the fact that they have been booked into the same hotel room.
Grandmothers are buried, substances are taken, songs are sung (Boyer’s interpretation of Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, is an interesting one), reconciliations are sought (one wittily involving words on a series of white boards) and whopping fat lies are told. Will they patch up their differences or go their separate ways? Should ex’s ever get together again? It is for you to find out.
JEW…ish, written by Boyer and Poppy Damon, is awash with wit. It’s 60 minutes of high-octane and entertaining theatre, enhanced by dynamic acting from Boyer and Newman who have a genuine on-stage connectivity.
Directed skilfully by Kennedy Bloomer and Toby Hampton, JEW…ish is fresh, raw, irreverent, in your face and at times incredibly funny. A romp, but a touching romp.
Certainly, the audience (a sell out on Thursday, January 16) loved it to pieces. Some of the humour may well go over the head of a few observers – it did me – but there’s enough in JEW…ish for everyone. Enjoy the trip.
Title image by Samuel Kirkman