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Review: J and C
Written by Richard Stamp   
Published on Saturday, 10 July 2010

Ah, the joy of youth.  It’s what gives you the chutzpah to do a show like this one: cheerfully intellectual, perplexingly self-referential, stuffed with philosophical musings and still, somehow, contriving to make an audience laugh.  It’s a tall order, and they couldn’t quite sustain the heights for a full 60 minutes – but at its finest, it was among the best new works I’ve seen this year.

I can’t even begin to describe the plot without dropping a mild spoiler, but the basics are in any case fairly swiftly revealed.  J and C – Julian and Clown – are characters in a half-finished book; but while their author sleeps and regains his muse, his fictional creations live on.  Trapped in a world of fiction they only half control, they quarrel, debate, and invent their own back-stories… all in the hope that somehow, it will make them free.

There’s a wonderful tightness to this part of Ben Aitken’s script: not a word is wasted, not a move is unplanned, and every line of dialogue draws us a little further in.  As the rules of this parallel world are slowly revealed, occasional moments of utter randomness add to the sense of dislocation, and the dynamic between the two men stuck together in eternal limbo is fascinating too.  Like an old married couple, they constantly fight each other – yet show moments of touching togetherness as well.

But when the absent author’s work was finally revealed, triggering a languid play-within-a-play, I’m afraid the spell broke for me.  I’m genuinely not sure whether this scene was intentionally weak (something which would make perfect sense within the plot) – but whatever the reason, it seemed to lose its way.  Despite a few good one-liners, I didn’t find it funny enough to stand up as a comic interlude; and nor, with regret, did I feel it moved the wider plot along.

But the final word must go to the flawless performances from George Wilson and Timmy Jones, who beautifully captured Julian’s pompous self-regard and Clown’s pugnacious disdain.  When so much at the modern Fringe is frankly thrown together, it’s a real pleasure to see a work so well-rehearsed and exceptionally well-performed.  So, it was a risk to put on J and C, and perhaps it’s a risk to see it; but take the chance anyway, and you may well uncover a personal treasure.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.