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Review: Jess and Joe Forever at Newcastle Live Theatre

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All Things Bright And Bootiful!

Jess and Joe Forever
NewcastleLive Theatre
Until Wednesday 26th October 2016

Presented by Farnham Maltings
Written by Zoe Cooper
Directed by Derek Bond

Zoe Cooper’s tale of two kids growing up is enchanting. The cast had chemistry on stage and hence it was easy to accept the story as the rollercoaster of life unfolded.

Nicola Coughlan and Rhys Isaac-Jones appear as Jess and Joe, two very different children. At the start of the show she is 9 ¾ and on holiday for 2 weeks in Norfolk with her au-pair nanny. It isn’t her proper holiday, rather, it is a chance to enjoy the rough and tumble of a childhood. Her real holiday will start at the end of it when she joins her parents at their apartment in Italy. When we meet up with Jess in the second scene, it is 2 years later and she is getting ready to pack her trunk and head off to boarding school.

Joe is very much a Norfolk lad. He has never been further than Norfolk and speaks with a broad local accent. He lost his mother when he was younger. When we see him at the age of 9 he is playing with the other local lads, jumping off trees into local a tributary. By 11 Joe is planning to attend the local comprehensive and spends his summer holiday helping his Dad on their dairy farm.

The two-handed play reviews the fortnight each summer when they are together in the same small village. The local gossips include Joe’s male friends and the adult villagers. The morals of the village’s inhabitants are even discussed from the pulpit of the local church. The set appears simple and yet it was effective, the square tiles on the floor reminded me of the disco floor in a Pulp video and there was a mound of soil. The lighting, apparently changed by the actors’ remote control, helped flag up the change of scenes. 

What helps make the play sweet are the little details and discrepancies that one gets with pre-teens. Jess for example says she is vegetarian but she is very partial to a Scotch egg.   Nicola Coughlan is engaging as the girl who apparently has the world at her feet and understands what penultimate means. Rhys Isaac-Jones, likewise, does a great job as the loyal introvert who doesn’t mind helping his Dad out. 

We have enjoyed two of Zoe’s previous plays: Nativities and Petrficaiton (NETG Review link) however Jess and Joe Forever is her best to date. There is a greater coherence to the narrative and, coupled with the on-stage chemistry between the actors, you’re left with a rather special tale.

Review by Stephen Oliver(@panic_c_button)

Jess and Joe Forever is at Live Theatre,
Newcastle on Tuesday 25 October to Wednesday 26 October. Tickets cost £14-£12, over 60's concs £12, other concs £6. For more information or to book tickets visit or contact Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232.
Suitable for ages 12+
DURATION: Approx. 55 mins

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