Kerry wants Stephen – a heavy-hearted, middle-class philosophy teacher and recent widower – to give her a great write up in Walthamstow magazine The Village. She also wants Stephen to get rid of Will who she says is ruining her business. Stephen says he will help as long as Kerry gives his whiny, righteous daughter Alice a waitressing job so she has something to take her mind off mourning the loss of her mother. But don’t worry, he will pay her wages. Then there’s Athena – Kerry’s talented chef – who could be deported at any time; although she’s lived in Britain since she was five, her father never bothered to deal with her immigration status.
In a nutshell, the show is all about the skewed British class divide, and how people of different social statuses interact with each other. With a serious debate at its core, playwright April De Angelis has written the show as if it were a British sitcom, with a twist of rom-com thrown in for good measure. There’s a joke almost every thirty seconds: some hit home and have the audience in hysterics, others don’t land as well.
Fay Ripley (Kerry) and Madeline Appiah (Athena) in Kerry Jackson at the National Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner
Fay Ripley is undeniably charismatic as Kerry. Even if she is ultimately an unlikable character due to her unsympathetic views, Ripley hits the gags and shines in the role. The piece does feel a bit like it has been written as a comeback piece for her. It would be great to see her in another play that isn’t so heavy-handed. Michael Gould is solid as the melancholy Stephen, and Madeline Appiah as Athena is perfectly natural and perhaps the most convincing actor on the stage. The characters’ lives play out on a revolving, hyper-realistic set of Kerry’s restaurant and Stephen’s open plan kitchen-living room, designed by Richard Kent.
It’s an unbalanced piece: the show deals with hard-hitting political issues like rising homelessness, male suicide, income inequality and racism to name a few, but it deals out stereotypes like they are going out of fashion, which they are. Working class and middle-class characters both state that we should ‘stick to our own kind’. The play’s end is tied up in a neat bow that feels unearned and inauthentic to the extreme emotional circumstances preceding it.
Even if the play is being ironic, the drama presented on stage makes it feels like the overall message is we should stay in our own class brackets and not seek outside relationships because they are inevitably going to break down; we are just too polarised. Is this the Britain we want to live in? De Angelis seems to be asking this question, but in an unclear whisper.
|What||Kerry Jackson, National Theatre review|
|Where||National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
30 Nov 22 – 28 Jan 23, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £65|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|