- United Kingdom Critic
I’m certainly starting to see an increase in the number of ‘pay what you can’ style shows popping up over the Yorkshire region. The term has a much more accessible ring to it than ‘pay what you think’ which forces audiences to quickly formulate a critical opinion with a subsequent monetary value after a show. Yet the ‘pay what you can’ model encourages more of a less critical, community feel amongst an audience, and perhaps places a higher experiential value on the show itself and provides a greater sense of accessibility to audiences. On this note, Common Chorus and Little Mighty’s latest offering, If I Say Jump, uses the latter payment method, and on its current regional tour, offers audiences with an evening of refreshingly simplistic storytelling.
If I Say Jump brings us to Barnsley, the home of vicar Jenny (Lynsey Jones), whose weird ex-husband keeps sending her flowers with hopes and promises of them getting back together. Adding to her problems is Danny (Richard Galloway), her best friend who turns up at her vestry with a gun after an altercation with his best mate Benson (also played by Galloway). What follows is a fast-paced, sometimes farcical and sometimes tender, tense comedy drama that pulls characters from various communities and collides them together with clever storytelling.
The cleverness comes from Simon Brewis’s directorial style, which, while it is an often-used method of narrative delivery, efficiently allows characters to breathe in the narrative. There are moments where we see the narrative told in retrospect, with both Jones and Galloway stepping out of scenes as their character to highlight their emotions. This is done in an almost Brechtian style to grip the audience, but not pushed too far in order to avoid the opposite effect of distancing the audience from the emotions of the characters. The direct address from the characters gives the audience an opportunity to build a more intimate relationship with them, and the performance environment effectively harks back to theatre’s more traditional styles of storytelling and encourages a real sense of connectivity between audience, character and narrative.
Jones and Galloway shine and relish in this environment, bringing a sense of unstoppable energy in their portrayals and the conviction they tell their story with. Jones brings a sense of warmth and care to Jenny, making her an engaging protagonist for the madcap happenings of the play to orbit around. She acts as the perfect guide for us to navigate the tumultuous emotions and themes of the narrative, never letting the sense of measure and pace drop in her delivery of the narrative. Galloway also never lets his sense of measure and pace drop, pushing the engaging performance environment further whilst also adding real depth to the number of characters he switches between, with clear-cut performative gestures that also add depth to the play-world.
With a refreshingly simple set, consisting of nothing more than a border of the flowers Jenny’s husband continuously sends, the performance environment is focused and uncluttered, focusing the action of the characters. This ultimately allows them to inhabit the otherwise empty performance space with a sense of ubiquity that allows audiences to see those characters in their own community and life, making the reach of Common Chorus and Little Mighty’s piece extensive and enjoyably enveloping.
If I Say Jump speeds along in about an hour, and provides audiences with a piece that upholds a real community feel that engages, entertains and pushes to remind us of the impulsiveness we share when it comes to making decisions, both bad and good. With strong performances and an engaging storytelling style, this piece makes for a solidly entertaining, inspiring and thoughtful evening at the theatre.
If I Say Jump continues on tour. For more information and tickets, visit https://commonchorus.co.uk/2017/02/27/if-i-say-jump/