Tuesday, April 23

JAB – Finborough Theatre

Married for 29 years, Anne and Don think they know each other well. They dance to their favourite music, share too many bottles of wine, muddle along in their empty-nest lives. Anne is an administrator with the NHS, Don runs a niche vintage shop that makes little money, leaving Anne as the main breadwinner. It works for them – until the pandemic hits and the country goes into lockdown. As Covid ravages the world, it also shows up the cracks in the marriage. Anne continues to work long hours from home while Don has to close his shop and lazes around reading the Daily Mail and soaking up far-right conspiracy theories.  It’s just the flu, he insists. It will go away in a month, he says, parroting what he’s read in the tabloids. Irritated by his increasing dependence on Anne, Don’s sexism grows until the relationship devolves into domestic violence and their earlier banter turns into vicious abuse. The divide between them is only further exacerbated by the arrival of the Covid vaccine, which Don rejects as unsafe, while Anne is recruited as a vaccinator, putting them further at loggerheads.

Kacey Ainsworth and Liam Tobin are skilled actors and are thoroughly credible as the middle-aged couple at odds with life and each other. Ainsworth gives Anne the world-weary tiredness of a woman who has kept her family going. Tobin’s Don shows a permanent air of frustration at the power-imbalance between the couple, resorting to exerting his dominance first through control of the TV remote and then dangerously devolving into domestic violence. Both give subtle and nuanced performances that are a joy to watch.

Photo: Steve Gregson

Scott Le Crass deftly uses the small performance space, the actors shifting the set’s four chairs to reflect aspects of the couple’s relationship. It’s dynamic and fluid, with Jodie Underwood’s lighting beautifully punctuating the transition between scenes.

The pandemic stress-tested many relationships as people were forced to isolate together. Here, writer James McDermott explores how a couple’s reality can be turned upside down, their marriage going from one of acceptance to love-hate, through outright loathing and then resolving into a sort-of-love as the situation takes a dramatic turn. With a few humorous moments (who would ever have thought that the mere mention of Barnard Castle would raise a laugh?), Jab is primarily a tragic tale that has the power to resonate with all.

JAB is at the Finborough Theatre until 16th March. Tickets are on sale from: https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/production/jab/

Reviewer:  Carole Gordon

Reviewed: 23rd February 2024

North West End UK Rating: 

Rating: 4 out of 5.